Effects of aging and exercise training on the histological and mechanical properties of articular structures in knee joints of male rat
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences . Biomedical Sciences
Biogerontology. - Dordrecht
, p. 369-381
University of Antwerp
The impact of aging on joints can have a profound effect on an individuals functioning. Our objectives were to assess the histological and mechanical properties of the knee joint capsule and articular cartilage with aging, and to examine the effects of exercise on age-related changes in the knee joint. 2-year-old Wistar rats were divided into a sedentary control group and an exercise-trained group. 10-week-old animals were used to investigate the changes with aging. The joint capsule and cartilage were evaluated with histological, histomorphometric, immunohistochemical, and mechanical analyses. Severe degenerative changes in articular cartilage were observed with aging, whereas exercise apparently did not have a significant effect. The articular cartilage of aged rats was characterized by damage to the cartilage surface, cell clustering, and an abnormal cartilage matrix. Histomorphometric analysis further revealed changes in cartilage thickness as well as a decreased number of chondrocytes. Aging led to stiffness of the articular cartilage and reduced the ability to dissipate the load and distribute the strain generated within the joint. Joint stiffness with aging was independent of capsular stiffness and synovitis was not a characteristic feature of the aging joint. This study confirms that aging alone eventually leads to joint degeneration in a rat model. The lack of recovery in aging joint changes may be due to several factors, such as the duration of the intervention and the regeneration ability of the cartilage.