Human articular cartilage was obtained post mortem from the lateral femoral condyles of 30 subjects aged from under 1 to 70 years. Cryostat sections taken 0--100 micrometers and 900--100 micrometers deep to the cartilage surface were exhaustively extracted to recover the glycosaminoglycans (GAG). After fractionation by cellulose acetate electrophoresis and enzyme depolymerisation individual GAG were determined by alcian blue -0.05 M MgCl2 and disaccharide microassay procedures. Changes with age were observed in GAG concentration and in the proportion of individual GAG. Large alterations occurred during the period of skeletal growth (0--16y). At birth GAG formed about 50% of the dry weight of cartilage, a value that decreased to about 15% in adult cartilage. Chondroitin sulphates (ChS) formed the principal GAG of articular cartilage and accounted for almost all of the GAG of the infant material. The ChS decreased with age and were partially replaced by keratan sulphate (KS), so the KS eventually comprised 12% of the GAG. Hyaluronic acid (HA) was identified and was found to increase linearly with age to form 6% by weight of the cartilage GAG by 60y.
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