In vivo cyclic compression causes cartilage degeneration and subchondral bone changes in mouse tibiae

Arthritis Rheum. 2013 Jun;65(6):1569-78. doi: 10.1002/art.37906.


Objective: Alterations in the mechanical loading environment in joints may have both beneficial and detrimental effects on articular cartilage and subchondral bone, and may subsequently influence the development of osteoarthritis (OA). Using an in vivo tibial loading model, the aim of this study was to investigate the adaptive responses of cartilage and bone to mechanical loading and to assess the influence of load level and duration.

Methods: Cyclic compression at peak loads of 4.5N and 9.0N was applied to the left tibial knee joint of adult (26-week-old) C57BL/6 male mice for 1, 2, and 6 weeks. Only 9.0N loading was utilized in young (10-week-old) mice. Changes in articular cartilage and subchondral bone were analyzed by histology and micro-computed tomography.

Results: Mechanical loading promoted cartilage damage in both age groups of mice, and the severity of joint damage increased with longer duration of loading. Metaphyseal bone mass increased with loading in young mice, but not in adult mice, whereas epiphyseal cancellous bone mass decreased with loading in both young and adult mice. In both age groups, articular cartilage thickness decreased, and subchondral cortical bone thickness increased in the posterior tibial plateau. Mice in both age groups developed periarticular osteophytes at the tibial plateau in response to the 9.0N load, but no osteophyte formation occurred in adult mice subjected to 4.5N peak loading.

Conclusion: This noninvasive loading model permits dissection of temporal and topographic changes in cartilage and bone and will enable investigation of the efficacy of treatment interventions targeting joint biomechanics or biologic events that promote OA onset and progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Experimental / pathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cartilage / diagnostic imaging
  • Cartilage / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tibia / diagnostic imaging
  • Tibia / pathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed