Scientists uncover why knee joint injury leads to osteoarthritis

Knee joint injuries are typically related to sports, such as football, rugby or ice hockey, but people often do not know that such injuries may lead to joint inflammation and post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

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University of Eastern Finland 25 October 2018

In advanced post-traumatic osteoarthritis, joint cartilage breaks down completely, causing severe joint pain, lack of mobility and even social isolation. However, the mechanisms leading to osteoarthritis are not known. Currently, it is not possible for a physician examining a patient to predict future joint condition and possible development of osteoarthritis.

In the future, however, this may be possible, as a new study from the University of Eastern Finland and Massachusetts Institute of Technology now shows that articular cartilage degenerates specifically around injury areas when the fluid flow velocity becomes excessive. The findings were reported in Scientific Reports.

The study presents a new mechanobiological model for cartilage degeneration by implementing tissue deformation and fluid flow as mechanisms for cartilage breakdown when a normal dynamic loading, such as walking, is applied to the joint. The results were compared to experimentally observed degradation of articular cartilage. Ultimately, the new model could be used to predict osteoarthritis in personal medicine, to suggest optimal rehabilitation protocols, and to improve the quality of life.

The researchers found that different mechanisms, such as fluid flow and tissue deformation, can cause cartilage degradation after a knee injury. The results obtained using the novel algorithm agreed well with the experimentally observed proteoglycan content and cell death in cartilage samples. According to the researchers, a numerical analysis shows that both fluid flow and tissue deformation are plausible mechanisms leading to osteoarthritis, but increased fluid flow from cartilage seems to be better in line with the experiments.

“Our findings indicate that after an injury in the knee and subsequent tissue loading, osteoarthritis is caused by easy leakage of proteoglycans through the injury surface by high fluid outflow,” Early Stage Researcher Gustavo A. Orozco from the University of Eastern Finland explains.

The findings are significant, and could open up new avenues for the model to be employed in the prediction of subject-specific progression of post-traumatic osteoarthritis, and in the evaluation of the effect of clinical interventions in the future. Specifically, the model could identify high and low-risk lesions in the cartilage for osteoarthritis development and suggest an optimal and individual rehabilitation protocol.

The study has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant No 713645. For further information, please contact Early Stage Researcher Gustavo A. Orozco, tel: +358 50 3485018

Source University of Eastern Finland
via EurekAlert! AAAS


A novel mechanobiological model can predict how physiologically relevant dynamic loading causes proteoglycan loss in mechanically injured articular cartilage,
 PDF, Gustavo A. Orozco, Petri Tanska, Cristina Florea, Alan J. Grodzinsky & Rami K. Korhonen, Scientific Reports volume 8, Article number: 15599 (2018) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-33759-3. Open Access

  Further reading
The effect of constitutive representations and structural constituents of ligaments on knee joint mechanics, Orozco GA, Tanska P, Mononen ME, Halonen KS, Korhonen RK. Sci Rep. 2018 Feb 2;8(1):2323. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-20739-w. Full text

Identification of locations susceptible to osteoarthritis in patients with anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: Combining knee joint computational modelling with follow-up T and T2 imaging, Paul O. Bolcos, Mika E. Mononen, Matthew S. Tanaka, Mingrui Yang, Juha-Sampo Suomalainen, Mikko J. Nissi, Juha Töyräs, Benjamin Ma, Xiaojuan Li, Rami K. Korhonen. Clinical Biomechanics. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2019.08.004. 2019/08/23. Full text

Comparison of different material models of articular cartilage in 3D computational modeling of the knee: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI), Klets O, Mononen ME, Tanska P, Nieminen MT, Korhonen RK, Saarakkala S. J Biomech. 2016 Dec 8;49(16):3891-3900. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2016.10.025. Epub 2016 Oct 25. Full text

Knee joint passive stiffness and moment in sagittal and frontal planes markedly increase with compression, Marouane H, Shirazi-Adl A, Adouni M. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin. 2015;18(4):339-50. doi: 10.1080/10255842.2013.795555. Epub 2013 May

Altered knee joint mechanics in simple compression associated with early cartilage degeneration, Dabiri Y, Li LP. Comput Math Methods Med. 2013;2013:862903. doi: 10.1155/2013/862903. Epub 2013 Jan 29. Full text

Mechanical characterization of articular cartilage by combining magnetic resonance imaging and finite-element analysis: a potential functional imaging technique, Julkunen P, Korhonen RK, Nissi MJ, Jurvelin JS. Phys Med Biol. 2008 May 7;53(9):2425-38. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/53/9/014. Epub 2008 Apr 17.

Also see
Activity Could Help Keep Knees Lubricated in University of Delaware, Newswise
Joint Function in University of Delaware
Investigation of connection between ACL surgery and osteoarthritis in University of Delaware

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