Researchers in Switzerland haved modified a scanning force microscope so that it can be used to diagnose the earliest stages of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease that is characterized by the degradation of articular cartilage. Significant and irreversible damage is usually present by the time symptoms appear in middle age. Current devices used for measuring the biomechanical properties of cartilage are sensitive only down to a resolution of millimeters which is much too large to pick up early lesions.
Scanning force microscopes (SFM) use a fine nanometer scanning tip which can be run over any surface to accurately map surface changes ranging from nanometers to millimeters. It can also detect biomechanical properties of a surface by having the tip pressed into the surface and recording and analyzing the resultant deformation.
Recently, Martin Stolz and colleagues at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute have placed a SFM into a standard arthroscopic cannula to image the human knee in vivo. Previously, the team had studied healthy and diseased tissue ex vivo and found that the collagen fibrils in the osteoarthritic knee that are normally oriented in 3D become clumped in the direction that the knee moves.
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