Intercellular signalling as a cause of cell death in cyclically impacted cartilage explants

A. Levine, N. Burton-Wurster, C. T. Chen, G. Lust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Recently, in vitro cartilage studies have shown that impact loading can produce structural damage and osteoarthritis-like changes, including tissue swelling, collagen denaturation, and cell death. Objective: This study was to determine whether a signal for cell death moves through the cartilage matrix, resulting in the spread of cell death over time from impacted to unimpacted regions. Design: Cyclic impacts were applied to the 2 mm core of 4 mm cartilage discs. Post-impact culturing extended for 3, 6 or 21 days and occurred in one of two ways. In one, discs were cultured intact. In the second, cores were removed immediately after cessation of impact and cores and rings cultured separately. Cells in apoptosis and later stage necrosis were monitored using the TUNEL assay. Results: The extent of cell death in impacted samples increased with increased duration of post-impact culturing. At the early time, the majority of cell death was located in the regions of direct impact whereas after extended culture, the extent of cell death was similar in the surrounding unimpacted regions and in the impacted core region. However, the physical separation of the impacted core from the surrounding, non-impacted ring regions immediately after impact, and prior to independent culture, kept the level of cell death in the surrounding ring close to control levels, even after 21 days of incubation. Discussion: These findings indicate that soluble intercellular signalling is involved in the spreading of cell death through the cartilage matrix, and that its effects can be prevented by physical isolation of the surrounding ring from the impacted core.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-711
Number of pages10
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2001


  • Apoptosis
  • Cartilage
  • Mechanical damage
  • Osteoarthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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