Roles of articular cartilage aging and chondrocyte senescence in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis

Iowa Orthop J. 2001;21:1-7.


Osteoarthritis (OA), the disease characterized by joint pain and loss of joint form and function due to articular cartilage degeneration, is not an inevitable consequence of aging, but a strong association exists between age and increasing evidence of OA. Aging changes in articular cartilage that increase the risk of articular cartilage degeneration include fibrillation of the articular surface, decrease in the size and aggregation of proteoglycan aggrecans, increased collagen cross-linking and loss of tensile strength and stiffness. These alterations are most likely primarily the result of aging changes in chondrocyte function that decrease the ability of the cells to maintain the tissue including decreased synthetic activity, synthesis of smaller less uniform aggrecans and less functional link proteins and decreased responsiveness to anabolic growth factors. Our recent work suggests that the cause of the age-related loss of chondrocyte function may be progressive senescence of articular cartilage chondrocytes marked by a decline in mitotic activity, increased expression of the senescence-associated enzyme beta-galactosidase and erosion of telomere length. New efforts to prevent the development or progression of OA might include strategies that delay the onset of chondrocyte senescence or replace senescent cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aggrecans
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology*
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Chondrocytes / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins*
  • Humans
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology*
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism


  • Aggrecans
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Proteoglycans