Collagen degeneration is an important pathological feature of osteoarthritis. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the polarization-sensitive optical coherence tomography (PSOCT)-based optical polarization tractography (OPT) can be useful in imaging collagen structural changes in human osteoarthritic cartilage samples. OPT eliminated the banding artifacts in conventional PSOCT by calculating the depth-resolved local birefringence and fiber orientation. A close comparison between OPT and PSOCT showed that OPT provided improved visualization and characterization of the zonal structure in human cartilage. Experimental results obtained in this study also underlined the importance of knowing the collagen fiber orientation in conventional polarized light microscopy assessment. In addition, parametric OPT imaging was achieved by quantifying the surface roughness, birefringence, and fiber dispersion in the superficial zone of the cartilage. These quantitative parametric images provided complementary information on the structural changes in cartilage, which can be useful for a comprehensive evaluation of collagen damage in osteoarthritic cartilage.
Collagen fiber orientation plays an important role in determining the structure and function of the articular cartilage. However, there is currently a lack of nondestructive means to image the fiber orientation from the cartilage surface. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the newly developed optical polarization tractography (OPT) can image fiber structure in articular cartilage. OPT was applied to obtain the depth-dependent fiber orientation in fresh articular cartilage samples obtained from porcine phalanges. For comparison, we also obtained collagen fiber orientation in the superficial zone of the cartilage using the established split-line method. The direction of each split-line was quantified using image processing. The orientation measured in OPT agreed well with those obtained from the split-line method. The correlation analysis of a total of 112 split-lines showed a greater than 0.9 coefficient of determination (R2) between the split-line results and OPT measurements obtained between 40 and 108 μm in depth. In addition, the thickness of the superficial layer can also be assessed from the birefringence images obtained in OPT. These results support that OPT provides a nondestructive way to image the collagen fiber structure in articular cartilage. This technology may be valuable for both basic cartilage research and clinical orthopedic applications.
Fibrous tissues exist in many parts of the body, where the directional fiber organization is critical in maintaining their
normal functions. Disruption of the normal fibrous structure is often linked to tissue dysfunction. An imaging tool that
can reveal the detailed fiber architecture will be valuable for our understanding of the structure-function relationship in
these tissues. Here, we described a new high-resolution tractography method developed from Jones matrix polarizationsensitive
optical coherence tomography. We demonstrated its applications for visualization of fibrous structures in
several different animal tissues.