Objective: Histopathological grading of osteochondral (OC) tissue is widely used in osteoarthritis (OA) research, and it is relatively common in post-surgery in vitro diagnostics. However, relying on thin tissue section, this approach includes a number of limitations, such as: (1) destructiveness, (2) sample processing artefacts, (3) 2D section does not represent spatial 3D structure and composition of the tissue, and (4) the final outcome is subjective. To overcome these limitations, we recently developed a contrast-enhanced μCT (CEμCT) imaging technique to visualize the collagenous extracellular matrix (ECM) of articular cartilage (AC). In the present study, we demonstrate that histopathological scoring of OC tissue from CEμCT is feasible. Moreover, we establish a new, semi-quantitative OA μCT grading system for OC tissue. Results: Pathological features were clearly visualized in AC and subchondral bone (SB) with μCT and verified with histology, as demonstrated with image atlases. Comparison of histopathological grades (OARSI or severity (0-3)) across the characterization approaches, CEμCT and histology, excellent (0.92, 95% CI = [0.84, 0.96], n = 30) or fair (0.50, 95% CI = [0.16, 0.74], n = 27) intra-class correlations (ICC), respectively. A new μCT grading system was successfully established which achieved an excellent cross-method (μCT vs histology) reader-to-reader intra-class correlation (0.78, 95% CI = [0.58, 0.89], n = 27). Conclusions: We demonstrated that histopathological information relevant to OA can reliably be obtained from CEμCT images. This new grading system could be used as a reference for 3D imaging and analysis techniques intended for volumetric evaluation of OA pathology in research and clinical applications.
- Micro-computed tomography