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Application of in vivo micro-computed tomography in the temporal characterisation of subchondral bone architecture in a rat model of low-dose monosodium iodoacetate-induced osteoarthritis

Geetha Mohan12*, Egon Perilli12, Julia S Kuliwaba12, Julia M Humphries12, Ian H Parkinson12 and Nicola L Fazzalari12

Author Affiliations

1 Bone and Joint Research Laboratory, Directorate of Surgical Pathology, SA Pathology and Hanson Institute, Frome Road, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia

2 Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R210  doi:10.1186/ar3543

Published: 21 December 2011



Osteoarthritis (OA) is a complex, multifactorial joint disease affecting both the cartilage and the subchondral bone. Animal models of OA aid in the understanding of the pathogenesis of OA and testing suitable drugs for OA treatment. In this study we characterized the temporal changes in the tibial subchondral bone architecture in a rat model of low-dose monosodium iodoacetate (MIA)-induced OA using in vivo micro-computed tomography (CT).


Male Wistar rats received a single intra-articular injection of low-dose MIA (0.2 mg) in the right knee joint and sterile saline in the left knee joint. The animals were scanned in vivo by micro-CT at two, six, and ten weeks post-injection, analogous to early, intermediate, and advanced stages of OA, to assess architectural changes in the tibial subchondral bone. The articular cartilage changes in the tibiae were assessed macroscopically and histologically at ten weeks post-injection.


Interestingly, tibiae of the MIA-injected knees showed significant bone loss at two weeks, followed by increased trabecular thickness and separation at six and ten weeks. The trabecular number was decreased at all time points compared to control tibiae. The tibial subchondral plate thickness of the MIA-injected knee was increased at two and six weeks and the plate porosity was increased at all time points compared to control. At ten weeks, histology revealed loss of proteoglycans, chondrocyte necrosis, chondrocyte clusters, cartilage fibrillation, and delamination in the MIA-injected tibiae, whereas the control tibiae showed no changes. Micro-CT images and histology showed the presence of subchondral bone sclerosis, cysts, and osteophytes.


These findings demonstrate that the low-dose MIA rat model closely mimics the pathological features of progressive human OA. The low-dose MIA rat model is therefore suitable to study the effect of therapeutic drugs on cartilage and bone in a non-trauma model of OA. In vivo micro-CT is a non-destructive imaging technique that can track structural changes in the tibial subchondral bone in this animal model, and could also be used to track changes in bone in preclinical drug intervention studies for OA treatments.