Ultrasound evaluation of site-specific effect of simulated microgravity on articular cartilage

Qing Wang, Yongping Zheng, Xiao Yun Wang, Yan Ping Huang, Mu Qing Liu, Shu Zhe Wang, Zong Kang Zhang, Xia Guo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Space flight induces acute changes in normal physiology in response to the microgravity environment. Articular cartilage is subjected to high loads under a ground reaction force on Earth. The objectives of this study were to investigate the site dependence of morphological and ultrasonic parameters of articular cartilage and to examine the site-specific responses of articular cartilage to simulated microgravity using ultrasound biomicroscopy (UBM). Six rats underwent tail suspension (simulated microgravity) for four weeks and six other rats were kept under normal Earth gravity as controls. Cartilage thickness, ultrasound roughness index (URI), integrated reflection coefficient (IRC) and integrated backscatter coefficient (IBC) of cartilage tissues, as well as histological degeneration were measured at the femoral head (FH), medial femoral condyle (MFC), lateral femoral condyle (LFC), patello-femoral groove (PFG) and patella (PAT). The results showed site dependence not significant in all UBM parameters except cartilage thickness (p < 0.01) in the control specimens. Only minor changes in articular cartilage were induced by 4-week tail suspension, although there were significant decreases in cartilage thickness at the MFC and PAT (p < 0.05) and a significant increase in URI at the PAT (p < 0.01). This study suggested that the 4-week simulated microgravity had only mild effects on femoral articular cartilage in the rat model. This information is useful for human spaceflight and clinical medicine in improving understanding of the effect of microgravity on articular cartilage. However, the effects of longer duration microgravity experience on articular cartilage need further investigation. (E-mail: [email protected]).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1089-1097
Number of pages9
JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010


  • Articular cartilage
  • Simulated microgravity
  • Site-dependence
  • Surface roughness
  • Ultrasound biomicroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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