There’s a reason osteoarthritis is often called wear-and-tear arthritis: Repeated stress on joints over time results in degeneration of the soft cartilage that normally distributes loads to the joints.
Recreating how joints bear stress could lead to a better understanding of the mechanical and physiological processes involved in the development of osteoarthritis. Cornell engineers have created a loading model that simulates prolonged joint loading, leading to similar conditions found in osteoarthritis sufferers. The model highlights not only cartilage degeneration and stiffening of bone, but also related changes immediately adjacent to the joint.
The study was published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism this month (Vol. 65 No. 6). Lead author Frank Ko is a graduate student in the research group of senior author Marjolein van der Meulen, the Swanson Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The collaborative work included co-authors Steven Goldring, Timothy Wright and Mary Goldring of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, with which Cornell has a longstanding collaboration in orthopedic biomechanics research.
From athletes to individuals suffering from osteoporosis, bone fractures are usually the result of tiny cracks accumulating over time – invisible rivulets of damage that, when coalesced, lead to that painful break.
Using cutting-edge X-ray techniques, Cornell researchers have uncovered cellular-level detail of what happens when bone bears repetitive stress over time, visualizing damage at smaller scales than previously observed. Their work could offer clues into how bone fractures could be prevented.
Marjolein van der Meulen, the Swanson Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, led the study published online March 5 in PLOS One using transmission X-ray microscopy at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, part of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.