Mass Spectrometry Imaging as a Potential Tool to Investigate Human Osteoarthritis at the Tissue Level

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Sep 3;21(17):6414. doi: 10.3390/ijms21176414.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common degenerative joint disease, predicted to increase in incidence year by year due to an ageing population. Due to the biological complexity of the disease, OA remains highly heterogeneous. Although much work has been undertaken in the past few years, underlying molecular mechanisms leading to joint tissue structural deterioration are not fully understood, with only few validated markers for disease diagnosis and progression being available. Discovery and quantitation of various OA-specific biomarkers is still largely focused on the bodily fluids which does not appear to be reliable and sensitive enough. However, with the advancement of spatial proteomic techniques, several novel peptides and proteins, as well as N-glycans, can be identified and localised in a reliable and sensitive manner. To summarise the important findings from OA biomarker studies, papers published between 2000 and 2020 were searched via Google Scholar and PubMed. Medical subject heading (MeSH) terms 'osteoarthritis', 'biomarker', 'synovial fluid', 'serum', 'urine', 'matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation', 'mass spectrometry imaging', 'proteomic', 'glycomic', 'cartilage', 'synovium' AND 'subchondral bone' were selectively used. The literature search was restricted to full-text original research articles and written only in English. Two main areas were reviewed for OA biomarker studies: (1) an overview of disease-specific markers detected from different types of OA bio-samples, and (2) an up-to-date summary of the tissue-specific OA studies that have utilised matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI). Overall, these OA biomarkers could provide clinicians with information for better the diagnosis, and prognosis of individual patients, and ultimately help facilitate the development of disease-modifying treatments.

Keywords: biomarkers; matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging; osteoarthritis; proteomics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Cartilage, Articular / metabolism
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology*
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Proteome / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization / methods*
  • Synovial Membrane / metabolism
  • Synovial Membrane / pathology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Proteome