Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common arthritis and its hallmark is degradation of articular cartilage by proteolytic enzymes leading to loss of joint function. It is challenging to monitor the status of cartilage in vivo and this study explores the use of autofluorescence lifetime (AFL) measurements to provide a label-free optical readout of cartilage degradation that could enable earlier detection and evaluation of potential therapies. We previously reported that treatment of ex vivo porcine cartilage with proteolytic enzymes resulted in decreased AFL. Here we report changes in AFL of ex vivo mouse knee joints, porcine metacarpophalangeal joints, normal human metatarsophalangeal articular tissue and human OA tibial plateau tissues measured with or without treatment using a compact single-point time resolved spectrofluorometer. Our data show that proteolytically damaged areas in porcine metacarpophalangeal joints present a reduced AFL and that inducing aggrecanases in mouse and human joints also significantly reduces AFL. Further, human cartilage from OA patients presents a significantly lower AFL compared to normal human cartilage. Our data suggest that AFL can detect areas of cartilage erosion and may potentially be utilised as a minimally-invasive diagnostic readout for early stage OA in combination with arthroscopy devices.
Animals, Cartilage, Articular, Fluorescence, Fluorometry, Humans, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Optical Imaging, Osteoarthritis, Proteolysis, Swine, Trypsin