Cartilage is perhaps the least appreciated tissue. It’s so simple, and (usually) works so well, that people tend to overlook it… and the fact that it doesn’t show up well on x-rays doesn’t help. But that might be starting to change. The Levenston lab at Georgia Tech has had success visualizing cartilage with MicroCT:
Microcomputed tomography (microCT) — which yields three-dimensional X-ray images with a resolution 100 times higher than clinical CT scans — is commonly used to image bone for osteoporosis research but has not been useful for imaging soft biological tissues such as cartilage. These tissues simply don’t interfere with the microCT’s X-rays as they pass through a sample, and therefore don’t show up on scans.
But by combining microCT with an X-ray-absorbing contrast agent that has a negative charge, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology were able to image the distribution of negatively charged molecules called proteoglycans (PGs). These molecules are critical to the proper functioning of cartilage.
This technique might also work in vivo, allowing clinicians to chart the progress of arthritis and the effectiveness of medications.
More from the lab of Dr. Mark Leventston…