BackgroundOne potential mechanism for early superficial cartilage wear in normal joints is alteration of the lubricant content and quality of synovial fluid. The purpose of this study was to determine if the concentration and quality of the lubricant, hyaluronan, in synovial fluid: (1) was similar in left and right knees; (2) exhibited similar age-associated trends, whether collected postmortem or antemortem; and (3) varied with age and grade of joint degeneration.
MethodsHuman synovial fluid of donors (23-91 years) without osteoarthritis was analyzed for the concentrations of protein, hyaluronan, and hyaluronan in the molecular weight ranges of 2.5-7 MDa, 1-2.5 MDa, 0.5-1 MDa, and 0.03-0.5 MDa. Similarity of data between left and right knees was assessed by reduced major axis regression, paired t-test, and Bland-Altman analysis. The effect of antemortem versus postmortem collection on biochemical properties was assessed for age-matched samples by unpaired t-test. The relationships between age, joint grade, and each biochemical component were assessed by regression analysis.
ResultsJoint grade and the concentrations of protein, hyaluronan, and hyaluronan in the molecular weight ranges of 2.5-7 MDa, 1-2.5 MDa, and 0.5-1 MDa in human synovial fluid showed good agreement between left and right knees and were similar between age-matched patient and cadaver knee joints. There was an age-associated decrease in overall joint grade (-15 %/decade) and concentrations of hyaluronan (-10.5 %/decade), and hyaluronan in the molecular weight ranges of 2.5-7 MDa (-9.4 %/decade), 1-2.5 MDa (-11.3 %/decade), 0.5-1 MDa (-12.5 %/decade), and 0.03-0.5 MDa (-13.0 %/decade). Hyaluronan concentration and quality was more strongly associated with age than with joint grade.
ConclusionsThe age-related increase in cartilage wear in non-osteoarthritic joints may be related to the altered hyaluronan content and quality of synovial fluid.