Correlations of low-field NMR and variable-field NMR parameters with osteoarthritis in human articular cartilage under load

Erik Rössler, Carlos Mattea, Simo Saarakkala, Petri Lehenkari, Mikko Finnilä, Lassi Rieppo, Sakari Karhula, Miika T. Nieminen, Siegfried Stapf* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


NMR experiments carried out at magnetic fields below 1 T provide new relaxation parameters unavailable with conventional clinical scanners. Contrast of T1 generally becomes larger towards low fields, as slow molecular reorientation processes dominate relaxation at the corresponding Larmor frequencies. This advantage has to be considered in the context of lower sensitivity and frequently reduced spatial resolution. The layered structure of cartilage is one example where a particularly strong variation of T1 across the tissue occurs, being affected by degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis (OA). Furthermore, the presence of 1H-14 N cross-relaxation, leading to so-called quadrupolar dips in the 1H relaxation time dispersion, provide insight into the concentration and mobility of proteoglycans and collagen in cartilage, both being affected by OA. In this study, low-field imaging and variable-field NMR relaxometry were combined for the first time for tissue samples, employing unidirectional load to probe the mechanical properties. 20 human knee cartilage samples were placed in a compression cell, and studied by determining relaxation profiles without and with applied pressure (0.6 MPa) at 50 μm in-plane resolution, and comparing with volume-averaged T1 dispersion. Samples were subsequently stored in formalin, prepared for histology and graded according to the Mankin score system. Quadrupolar dips and thickness change under load showed the strongest correlation with Mankin grade. Average T1 and change of maximum T1 under load, as well as its position, correlate with thickness and thickness change. Furthermore, T1(ω) above 25 mT was found to correlate with thickness change. While volume-averaged T1 is not a suitable indicator for OA, its change due to mechanical load and its extreme values are suggested as biomarkers available in low-field MRI systems. The shape of the dispersion T1(ω) represents a promising access to understanding and quantifying molecular dynamics in tissue, pointing toward future in vivo tissue studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3738
JournalNMR in Biomedicine
Issue number8
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Part of this work was supported by the EU Horizon 2020 collaborative project IDentIFY (project number 668119). ER gratefully acknowledges Carl Zeiss Stiftung for the scholarship to pursue his PhD research. MTN is indebted to Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, Finland for financial support. SS wishes to thank Professor Yang Xia for continuous valuable discussions. The assistance of Maarit Valkealahti in acquiring osteochondral specimens is gratefully acknowledged.


  • cartilage
  • low-field NMR
  • mechanical load
  • osteoarthritis
  • quadrupolar dips
  • relaxometry


Dive into the research topics of 'Correlations of low-field NMR and variable-field NMR parameters with osteoarthritis in human articular cartilage under load'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this