On fragmenting densely mineralised acellular protrusions into articular cartilage and their possible role in ostearthritis


High density mineralised protrusions (HDMP) from the tidemark mineralising front into hyaline articular cartilage (HAC) were first described in Thoroughbred racehorse fetlock joints and later in Icelandic horse hock joints. We now report them in human material. Whole femoral heads removed at operation for joint replacement or from dissection room cadavers were imaged using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) dual echo steady state at 0.23 mm resolution, then 26-μm resolution high contrast X-ray microtomography, sectioned and embedded in polymethylmethacrylate, blocks cut and polished and re-imaged with 6-μm resolution X-ray microtomography. Tissue mineralisation density was imaged using backscattered electron SEM (BSE SEM) at 20 kV with uncoated samples. HAC histology was studied by BSE SEM after staining block faces with ammonium triiodide solution. HDMP arise via the extrusion of an unknown mineralisable matrix into clefts in HAC, a process of acellular dystrophic calcification. Their formation may be an extension of a crack self-healing mechanism found in bone and articular calcified cartilage. Mineral concentration exceeds that of articular calcified cartilage and is not uniform. It is probable that they have not been reported previously because they are removed by decalcification with standard protocols. Mineral phase morphology frequently shows the agglomeration of many fine particles into larger concretions. HDMP are surrounded by HAC, are brittle, and show fault lines within them. Dense fragments found within damaged HAC could make a significant contribution to joint destruction. At least larger HDMP can be detected with the best MRI imaging ex vivo.

Journal of Anatomy 225(4):n/a-n/a · October 2014