Subchondral Trabecular Rod Loss and Plate Thickening in the Development of Osteoarthritis

Yan Chen, Yizhong Hu, Y. Eric Yu, Xingjian Zhang, Tezita Watts, Bin Zhou, Ji Wang, Ting Wang, Weiwei Zhao, Kwong Yuen Chiu, Frankie K.L. Leung, Xu Cao, William Macaulay, Kyle K. Nishiyama, Elizabeth Shane, William W. Lu, X. Edward Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Developing effective treatment for osteoarthritis (OA), a prevalent and disabling disease, has remained a challenge, primarily because of limited understanding of its pathogenesis and late diagnosis. In the subchondral bone, rapid bone loss after traumatic injuries and bone sclerosis at the advanced stage of OA are well-recognized hallmarks of the disease. Recent studies have further demonstrated the crucial contribution of subchondral bone in the development of OA. However, the microstructural basis of these bone changes has not been examined thoroughly, and the paradox of how abnormal resorption can eventually lead to bone sclerosis remains unanswered. By applying a novel microstructural analysis technique, individual trabecula segmentation (ITS), to micro-computed tomography (μCT) images of human OA knees, we have identified a drastic loss of rod-like trabeculae and thickening of plate-like trabeculae that persisted in all regions of the tibial plateau, underneath both severely damaged and still intact cartilage. The simultaneous reduction in trabecular rods and thickening of trabecular plates provide important insights to the dynamic and paradoxical subchondral bone changes observed in OA. Furthermore, using an established guinea pig model of spontaneous OA, we discovered similar trabecular rod loss and plate thickening that preceded cartilage degradation. Thus, our study suggests that rod-and-plate microstructural changes in the subchondral trabecular bone may play an important role in the development of OA and that advanced microstructural analysis techniques such as ITS are necessary in detecting these early but subtle changes. With emerging high-resolution skeletal imaging modalities such as the high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT), trabecular rod loss identified by ITS could potentially be used as a marker in assessing the progression of OA in future longitudinal studies or clinical diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-327
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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