Characterization of articular cartilage and subchondral bone changes in the rat anterior cruciate ligament transection and meniscectomized models of osteoarthritis

Tadashi Hayami, Maureen Pickarski, Ya Zhuo, Gregg A Wesolowski, Gideon A Rodan, Le T Duong
Bone 2006, 38 (2): 234-43
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint disease characterized by cartilage destruction, subchondral bone sclerosis, and osteophyte formation. Subchondral bone stiffness has been proposed to initiate and/or contribute to cartilage deterioration in OA. The purpose of this study was to characterize subchondral bone remodeling, cartilage damage, and osteophytosis during the disease progression in two models of surgically induced OA. Rat knee joints were subjected either to anterior cruciate ligament transection (ACLT) alone or in combination with resection of medial menisci (ACLT + MMx). Histopathological changes in the surgical joints were compared with sham at 1, 2, 4, 6, and 10 weeks post-surgery. Using a modified Mankin scoring system, we demonstrate that articular cartilage damage occurs within 2 weeks post-surgery in both surgical models. Detectable cartilage surface damage and proteoglycan loss were observed as early as 1 week post-surgery. These were followed by the increases in vascular invasion into cartilage, in loss of chondrocyte number and in cell clustering. Histomorphometric analysis revealed subchondral bone loss in both models within 2 weeks post-surgery followed by significant increases in subchondral bone volume relative to sham up to 10 weeks post-surgery. Incidence of osteophyte formation was optimally observed in ACLT joints at 10 weeks and in ACLT + MMx joints at 6 weeks post-surgery. In summary, the two surgically induced rat OA models share many characteristics seen in human and other animal models of OA, including progressive articular cartilage degradation, subchondral bone sclerosis, and osteophyte formation. Moreover, increased subchondral bone resorption is associated with early development of cartilage lesions, which precedes significant cartilage thinning and subchondral bone sclerosis. Together, these findings support a role for bone remodeling in OA pathogenesis and suggest that these rat models are suitable for evaluating bone resorption inhibitors as potential disease-modifying pharmaco-therapies.

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