The rate of loss from the synovial cavity of proteoglycan subunit, a major constituent of cartilage, has been measured in rabbits with and without experimental arthritis. The effect of aggregation between proteoglycan and hyaluronic acid upon the rate of elimination has also been investigated. The results indicate that proteoglycan subunit has a clearance half life of around 12 hours in normal joints and that this rate is not significantly altered in the presence of an active synovitis. Neither injection of proteoglycan as an aggregate, nor in a form incapable of aggregation, had any significant effect on clearance rates. These data indicate that loss of proteoglycan from the joint is not retarded by its ability to aggregate with hyaluronic acid in the synovial fluid and, together with measurements of synovial fluid proteoglycan, may enable rates of cartilage breakdown in vivo to be calculated.
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