Raman Spectroscopic Diagnostics of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is an incapacitating, chronic condition characterized by the degeneration of articular cartilage. A significant impediment to developing effective OA therapies is the lack of diagnostic platforms capable of monitoring bio-markers that reflect the pathophysiologic changes in cartilage structure and composition. Raman spectroscopy is an inelastic optical light scattering technique that we are adapting for cartilage diagnostics. The Raman spectrum of cartilage tissue provides a quantitative, point-wise optical fingerprint of the tissue’s molecular building blocks (amides, sulfates, carboxylic acids, and hydroxyls), thus allowing recognition of the predominant molecular constituents of articular cartilage: GAG, collagen, and H2O. Our team has developed a novel Raman arthroscopic probe to achieve a minimally invasive, intra-articular real-time “optical biopsy” of cartilage composition, structure, and material properties. Raman arthroscopy can develop into a transformative safe, effective medical platform for rapid and efficient monitoring of cartilage in patients, allowing for an improved understanding of causative factors of OA and evaluating the efficacy of current and emerging therapies in the clinic.

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Fig 1: Raman arthroscopy of articular cartilage in the synovial joint. Multivariate regression analysis used to depict the relative levels of ECM constituents in cartilage.
Fig 2: Raman arthroscopy for extraction of biomarkers (Raman GAG score) that reflect the composition and functional mechanical properties of healthy and OA-degenerated articular cartilage.
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Fig 3: Raman arthroscopy depicts evolving contribution of hydrogel scaffold and ECM constituents (GAG, collagen, water) to composite spectra of engineered neocartilage.