Alteration of collagen network and negative charge of articular cartilage surface in the early stage of experimental osteoarthritis
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Forty-eight mature male Japanese white rabbits were subjected to unilateral resection of a segment of the gluteal muscles at the sacral origin and a section of infrapatellar ligament. Animals were killed at 1, 2, 4, and 8 weeks postoperatively, and the articular cartilage of the femoral heads was evaluated. The collagen fibrillar network of the articular surface was observed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) using microdissection by ultrasonication. Cationized ferritin (CF) was used for the labeling of negative charges on the articular surfaces and the thickness of CF layers was observed under the transmission electron microscope. Metachromasia of the matrix decreased remarkably at 4 weeks postoperatively, and fibrillation of the articular surface was evident at 8 weeks postoperatively. Derangement and rupture of the collagen network developed as early as 1 week after surgery. The thickness of the CF layer significantly decreased at 4 weeks postoperatively. This study confirms that alterations of the articular surface, such as derangement of the collagen network and loss of the negative charge, are some of the earliest changes in osteoarthritis. In addition, application of ultrasonication with proper frequencies to the articular cartilage effects an optimal removal of mucus, with the consequent exposure of a well-preserved articular surface for SEM study.