Developing a cationic contrast agent for computed tomographic imaging of articular cartilage and synthetic biolubricants for early diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritis
Lakin, Benjamin Alan
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Osteoarthritis (OA) causes debilitating pain for millions of people, yet OA is typically diagnosed late in the disease process after severe damage to the articular cartilage has occurred and few treatment options exist. Furthermore, destructive techniques are required to measure cartilage biochemical and mechanical properties for studying cartilage function and changes during OA. Hence, research and clinical needs exist for non-destructive measures of cartilage properties. Various arthroscopic (e.g., ultrasound probes) and imaging (e.g., MRI or CT) techniques are available for assessing cartilage less destructively. However, arthroscopic methods are limited by patient anesthesia/infection risks and cost, and MRI is hindered by high cost, long image acquisition times and low resolution. Contrast-enhanced CT (CECT) is a promising diagnostic tool for early-stage OA, yet most of its development work utilizes simplified and ideal cartilage models, and rarely intact, pre-clinical animal or human models. To advance CECT imaging for articular cartilage, this dissertation describes further development of a new cationic contrast agent (CA4+) for minimally-invasive assessment of cartilage biochemical and mechanical properties, including glycosaminoglycan content, compressive modulus, and coefficient of friction. Specifically, CA4+ enhanced CT is compared to these three cartilage properties initially using an ideal bovine osteochondral plug model, then the technique is expanded to examine human finger joints and both euthanized and live mouse knees. Furthermore, CECT attenuations with CA4+ map bovine meniscal GAG content and distribution, signifying CECT can evaluate multiple tissues involved in OA. CECT's sensitivity to critical cartilage and meniscal properties demonstrates its applicability as both a non-destructive research tool as well as a method for diagnosing and monitoring early-stage OA. Additionally, CECT enables evaluation of efficacy for a new biolubricant (2M TEG) for early-stage OA treatment. In particular, CECT can detect the reduced wear on cartilage surfaces for samples tested in 2M TEG compared to samples tested in saline (negative control). With its sensitivity to cartilage GAG content, surface roughness, and mechanical properties, CA4+ enhanced CT will serve as a valuable tool for subsequent in vivo animal and clinical use.