Work by the RVC skeletal biology group has been showcased at an event highlighting key publications from the past year.

Tibial joint surface
Location and areal density of bridges across the growth plate projected on the tibial joint surface: (a) OA-susceptible 8 weeks, (b) non-susceptible 8 weeks, (c) OA-susceptible 40+ weeks and (d) non-susceptible 40+ weeks (click to zoom).

Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, launched its annual review at the Wellcome Trust. It featured work by Katherine Staines and Andy Pitsillides, both of the RVC, which was published in Arthritis and Rheumatology.

In collaboration with scientists at the University of Manchester, Dr Staines and Prof Pitsillides are researching osteoarthritis (OA), a debilitating disease characterised by the loss of articular cartilage that normally covers the ends of bones to allow pain-free movement.

Excessive bridging

Using synchrotron x-ray microtomography on the Diamond Manchester Imaging Branchline (I13-2), they explored the properties of growth plate cartilage in the knees of arthritic mice.

The 3D scanning revealed this tissue began to close prematurely by forming bony bridges across its length prior to onset of disease. This bridging was excessive and more common in areas where OA was at its most severe in the aged mouse.

These results show an accelerated growth phenotype in the mice that could contribute to their disease pathology. The clustering of bony bridges found in late OA suggests their formation is driven by mechanical factors, which gives the research team an important insight into how this disease progresses.

Potential for prevention

Dr Staines said: “OA is a debilitating disease affecting the vast majority of our ageing population.

“Our findings here are the first evidence for a link between abnormal growth, altered loads placed on the joint and OA development. This may allow us, in future, to better identify those at risk of developing OA and this will potentially enable us to prevent the progression of their disease.”

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