In Gd-DTPA-enhanced T(1) imaging of articular cartilage, the MRI contrast agent with two negative charges is understood to accumulate in tissue inversely to the negative charge of cartilage glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) of proteoglycans (PGs), and this leads to a decrease in the T(1) relaxation time of tissue relative to the charge in tissue. By assuming a constant relaxivity for Gd-DTPA in cartilage, it has further been hypothesized that the contrast agent concentration in tissue could be estimated from consecutive T(1) measurements in the absence or presence of the contrast agent. The spatial sensitivity of the technique was examined at 9.4 T in normal and PG-depleted bovine patellar cartilage samples. As a reference, spatial PG concentration was assessed with digital densitometry from safranin O-stained cartilage sections. An excellent linear correlation between spatial optical density (OD) of stained GAGs and T(1) with Gd-DTPA was observed in the control and chondroitinase ABC-treated cartilage specimens, and the MR parameter accounted for approximately 80% of the variations in GAG concentration within samples. Further, the MR-resolved Gd-DTPA concentration proved to be an even better estimate for PGs, with an improved correlation. However, the linear relation between MR parameters and PG concentration did not apply in the deep tissue, where MR measurements overestimated the PG content. While the absolute [Gd-DTPA] determination may be prone to error due to uncertainty of relaxivity in cartilage, or to other contributing factors such as variations in tissue permeability, the experimental evidence highlights the sensitivity of this technique to reflect spatial changes in cartilage PG concentration in normal and degenerated tissue.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.