Investigation of calcium crystals in OA knees

Rheumatol Int. 2010 Mar;30(5):623-31. doi: 10.1007/s00296-009-1032-2. Epub 2009 Jul 29.


For studies on matrix mineralization in osteoarthritis (OA), a clear analytical approach is necessary to identify and to quantify mineralization in the articular cartilage. The aim of this study is to develop an effective algorithm to quantify and to identify cartilage mineralization in the experimental setting. Four patients with OA of the knee undergoing total knee replacement and four control patients were included. Cartilage calcification was studied by digital contact radiography (DCR), field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM) X-ray element analysis and Raman spectroscopy (RS). DCR revealed mineralization in all OA cartilage specimens. No mineralization was observed in the control cartilage. Patient I showed rhomboid shaped crystals with a mean Ca:P molar ratio of 1.04 indicated the presence of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD) crystals, while Patients II, III and IV presented carbonate-substituted hydroxyapatite (HA). RS also showed the presence of CPPD crystals in Patient I while Patients II, III and IV revealed spectra confirming the presence of HA crystals. In the corresponding chondrocyte cell culture analyzed with SEM, the presence of CPPD crystals in the culture of Patient I and HA crystals in the culture of Patient II, III and IV was confirmed. No mineralization was found in the cell culture of the controls. The differentiation between BCP and CPPD crystals plays an important role, and the techniques presented here provide an accurate differentiation of these two types of crystals. For quantification of articular cartilage mineralization, DCR is a simple and accurate method.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee
  • Calcium Carbonate / metabolism
  • Calcium Phosphates / metabolism*
  • Calcium Pyrophosphate / metabolism
  • Cartilage, Articular / chemistry*
  • Cartilage, Articular / diagnostic imaging
  • Cartilage, Articular / surgery
  • Cartilage, Articular / ultrastructure
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocalcinosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Chondrocalcinosis / metabolism*
  • Chondrocalcinosis / pathology
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism
  • Crystallization
  • Durapatite / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint / metabolism*
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Knee Joint / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / metabolism*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / surgery
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman
  • Young Adult


  • Calcium Phosphates
  • Durapatite
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Calcium Pyrophosphate