Anterior cruciate ligament injury increases risk for accelerated development of osteoarthritis. The effect of exercise on articular cartilage following joint injury is not well understood. Biochemical biomarkers of collagen degradation and proteoglycan turnover are potential indicators for early articular cartilage degeneration.
This study tests the hypothesis that serum concentrations of CS846 and CTXii correlate with structural changes to articular cartilage following joint injury in exercised animals.
Controlled laboratory study.
Twenty-four Sprague-Dawley rats underwent either arthrotomy alone (sham surgery) or anterior cruciate ligament transection (ACLT). Animals were recovered for 3 weeks and then exercised on a treadmill at 18 m per minute, 1 hour per day, 5 days per week, until sacrifice either 6 or 12 weeks later. Articular cartilage was assessed grossly, and histology was graded using modified Mankin, toluidine blue, and modified David-Vaudey scales. Serum collected preoperatively and at sacrifice was assayed by ELISA for CTXii and CS846.
At 6 weeks, gross grades (P < 0.01), modified Mankin scores (P < 0.03), and toluidine blue scores (P < 0.04) were higher, reflecting increased degeneration in ACLT animals compared with sham surgery animals. Serum CS846 increased after 6 weeks in ACLT animals (P < 0.05). Serum CTXii levels strongly correlated with Mankin degenerative scores (coefficient = 0.81, P < 0.01) and David-Vaudey histology grades (coefficient = 0.73, P < 0.01) at 6 weeks. While gross grades remained higher at 12 weeks in ACLT animals (P < 0.04), no differences were seen in serum CS846 and CTXii. Histology scores also showed no differences between ACLT and sham due to increasing degeneration in the sham surgery group.
The strong correlation between serum CTXii and microstructural changes to articular cartilage following joint injury demonstrates potential use of serum biomarkers for early detection of cartilage degeneration. Increasing cartilage degeneration in exercised sham-surgery animals suggests that early loading may have negative effects on articular cartilage due to either mechanical injury or hemarthrosis after arthrotomy.
Patients with anterior cruciate ligament injury are at increased risk for development of posttraumatic osteoarthritis. CTXii may be useful for early detection of joint degeneration. Further study on the effects of exercise after injury is important to postinjury and postoperative rehabilitation.