Early degenerative changes in a spontaneous osteoarthritis model assessed by nanoindentation

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Understanding early mechanical changes in articular cartilage (AC) and subchondral bone (SB) is crucial for improved treatment of osteoarthritis (OA). The aim of this study was to develop a method for nanoindentation of fresh, unfixed osteochondral tissue to assess the early changes in the mechanical properties of AC and SB. Nanoindentation was performed throughout the depth of AC and SB in the proximal tibia of Dunkin Hartley guinea pigs at 2 months, 3 months, and 2 years of age. The contralateral tibias were either histologically graded for OA or analyzed using immunohistochemistry. The results showed an increase in the reduced modulus (Er) in the deep zone of AC during early-stage OA (6.0 ± 1.75 MPa) compared to values at 2 months (4.04 ± 1.25 MPa) (*** p < 0.001). In severe OA (2-year) specimens, there was a significant reduction in Er throughout the superficial and middle AC zones, which correlated to increased ADAMTS 4 and 5 staining, and proteoglycan loss in these regions. In the subchondral bone, a 35.0% reduction in stiffness was observed between 2-month and 3-month specimens (*** p < 0.001). The severe OA age group had significantly increased SB stiffness of 36.2% and 109.6% compared to 2-month and 3-month-old specimens respectively (*** p < 0.001). In conclusion, this study provides useful information about the changes in the mechanical properties of both AC and SB during both early- and late-stage OA and indicates that an initial reduction in stiffness of the SB and an increase in stiffness in the deep zone of AC may precede early-stage cartilage degeneration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number995
Number of pages17
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2023


  • nanoindentation
  • osteoarthritis
  • osteochondral interface
  • articular cartilage
  • subchondral bone
  • mechanical properties

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