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Mechanism of disease in early osteoarthritis: application of modern MR imaging techniques — a technical report


The application of biomolecular magnetic resonance imaging becomes increasingly important in the context of early cartilage changes in degenerative and inflammatory joint disease before gross morphological changes become apparent. In this limited technical report, we investigate the correlation of MRI T1, T2 and T1ρ relaxation times with quantitative biochemical measurements of proteoglycan and collagen contents of cartilage in close synopsis with histologic morphology. A recently developed MRI sequence, T1ρ, was able to detect early intracartilaginous degeneration quantitatively and also qualitatively by color mapping demonstrating a higher sensitivity than standard T2-weighted sequences. The results correlated highly with reduced proteoglycan content and disrupted collagen architecture as measured by biochemistry and histology. The findings lend support to a clinical implementation that allows rapid visual capturing of pathology on a local, millimeter level. Further information about articular cartilage quality otherwise not detectable in vivo, via normal inspection, is needed for orthopedic treatment decisions in the present and future.

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