The cell density and incorporation of 35SO4 and 3H-glycine into human articular cartilage from 8 osteoarthrotic and 7 normal (subcapital fracture) femoral heads were studied. It was found that osteoarthrotic cartilage incorporates on a per cell basis about twice as much 35SO4 and 2--5 times as much 3H-glycine as normal cartilage. There was no relationship between the intensity of incorporation and either the location of the cartilage (weight-bearing versus non weight-bearing areas) in normal cartilage or the degree of damage (normal-like, fibrillated, and ulcerated) in osteoarthrotic articular cartilage. In the latter tissue the increased synthetic capacity of the cells seems to be a diffuse rather than a localised process, for it was also found in cartilage from peripheral osteophytes. Histo-autoradiographic studies showed that the osteoarthrotic chondrocytes are metabolically hyperactive all over the femoral head, including wedge-shaped margins of the zone of exposed bone. These results support the hypothesis that much of the articular cartilage from osteoarthrotic femoral heads is of an immature chondroblastic type. It is suggested that de-novo synthesis of articular cartilage occurs during the process of regional remodelling of the femoral head, which would account for the observed hyperactivity.
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