© 2012 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 30:1413–1422, 2012

Changes induced by chronic in vivo load alteration in the tibiofemoral joint of mature rabbits

Maria L. Roemhildt Bruce D. Beynnon Mack Gardner‐Morse Gary Badger Calsey Grant

We investigated the relationship between the magnitude and duration of chronic compressive load alteration and the development and progression of degenerative changes in the rabbit tibiofemoral joint. Varus loading devices were attached to the hind limb of mature NZW rabbits. Altered compressive loads of 0%, 50%, and 80% body weight (BW) were applied to the tibiofemoral joint for 12 h per day for 12 and 24 weeks (n = 4 animals/group). Compartment‐specific assessment of the tibial plateau included histological assessments (articular cartilage, calcified cartilage, and subchondral bone thicknesses, degeneration score, and articular cartilage cellularity) and biomechanical measures (aggregate modulus, permeability, Poisson’s ratio). Analyses of variance techniques were used to examine the relationship between each outcome measure with load magnitude and duration as independent variables in the model. Degenerative changes developed in the medial compartment with increased magnitude of compressive loading and included fibrillation, increased degeneration score, and reduced cellularity of the articular cartilage. Increased calcified cartilage thickness was observed in both the medial and lateral compartments following exposure to altered loading of 80% BW for 24 weeks. This work demonstrates that in vivo chronic compressive load alteration to the tibiofemoral joint can initiate progressive macroscopic and histological‐based degenerative changes analogous to the early changes occurring in OA.

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