Analysis of forward and backward Second Harmonic Generation images to probe the nanoscale structure of collagen within bone and cartilage

J Biophotonics. 2015 Nov;8(11-12):993-1001. doi: 10.1002/jbio.201500150. Epub 2015 Sep 9.


Collagen ultrastructure plays a central role in the function of a wide range of connective tissues. Studying collagen structure at the microscopic scale is therefore of considerable interest to understand the mechanisms of tissue pathologies. Here, we use second harmonic generation microscopy to characterize collagen structure within bone and articular cartilage in human knees. We analyze the intensity dependence on polarization and discuss the differences between Forward and Backward images in both tissues. Focusing on articular cartilage, we observe an increase in Forward/Backward ratio from the cartilage surface to the bone. Coupling these results to numerical simulations reveals the evolution of collagen fibril diameter and spatial organization as a function of depth within cartilage.

Keywords: Second Harmonic Generation; bone; cartilage; forward/backward ratio; nonlinear microscopy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amputation
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cartilage, Articular / ultrastructure*
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Collagen / ultrastructure*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Knee
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods*
  • Microscopy, Polarization / methods*
  • Models, Biological
  • Tibia / metabolism
  • Tibia / ultrastructure*


  • Collagen