As articular cartilage is an avascular tissue, the transport of nutrients and cytokines through the tissue is essential for the health of cells, i.e. chondrocytes. Transport of specific contrast agents through cartilage has been investigated to elucidate cartilage quality. In laboratory, pre-clinical and clinical studies, imaging techniques such as magnetic imaging resonance (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and fluorescent microscopy have been widely employed to visualize and quantify solute transport in cartilage. Many parameters related to the physico-chemical properties of the solute, such as molecular weight, net charge and chemical structure, have a profound effect on the transport characteristics. Information on the interplay of the solute parameters with the imaging-dependent parameters (e.g. resolution, scan and acquisition time) could assist in selecting the most optimal imaging systems and data analysis tools in a specific experimental set up. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of various imaging systems to investigate solute transport properties in articular cartilage, by discussing their potentials and limitations. The presented information can serve as a guideline for applications in cartilage imaging and therapeutics delivery and to improve understanding of the set-up of solute transport experiments in articular cartilage.
Full Access Link: Journal of Biomechanics