Radiocarbon analysis demonstrates inability of joint cartilage to heal itself

7 July 2016

Researchers have gained a new insight into the way conditions such as osteoarthritis develop by using radiocarbon dating as a forensic tool.

The University of Copenhagen research found a new use for the technique, which dates tissues by tracing radioactive carbon and measuring it against levels of carbon-14 residing in the atmosphere as a result of nuclear bomb testing in the 1950s and 1960s.

Applying the method to the knee joint cartilage of eight healthy and 15 osteoarthritic individuals born between 1935 and 1997, it was found that virtually no formation of new collagen in cartilage took place between these dates.

This remained true regardless of the patients' disease status, suggesting the tissue is an essentially permanent structure with limited healing capacity after injury.

According to the researchers, these findings help to explain why cartilage transplant and stem cell therapies for osteoarthritis have had limited success, and indicate that treatment efforts may be better focused on preventing cartilage disease, while protecting joints from further damage.

Posted by Edward Bartel


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