Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint disease that is characterized by breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone. Traumatic injuries, such as a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) increases the risk of developing OA and provide a targeted way to investigate early pathophysiological changes in cartilage and intervene in a disease process. Our current research involves developing techniques of advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and image processing that can be used to improve the clinical picture of the pathophysiological processes preceding the development of OA.  For this purpose, we have developed algorithms for automated segmentation of joint cartilages that are used for computation of morphological and biochemical imaging biomarkers of the cartilage damage (Figure 1).

Example knee MRI scan with biochemical information

Figure 1
Workflow of the developed software: structural (upper left) and biochemical (bottom left) MRI images of the knee are acquired for the automated cartilage assessment. The cartilage is automatically segmented in 3D from the structural MRI scan using in-house software (middle column). The biochemical MRI scan is fused with the structural scan and statistical analysis of the biochemical MRI signal in different cartilage regions are reported for clinical analysis (right column).

 

 

We are currently running a clinical trial study with patients after knee or hip injury (ACL rupture, labral tear) to explore and evaluate novel biomarkers of cartilage degeneration (example shown in Figure 2).  The novel MRI protocols and processing techniques are also evaluated on clinical data from our academic and industrial partners (Steadman Philippon Research Institute, USA). The developed software “ChondralHealth” (overview in Figure 1) is shared with our industrial partner (Siemens Healthcare, Germany) who is running large-scale multi-centric validation studies. Results of this research will provide tools for medical practitioners to improve the diagnosis and clinical management of OA worldwide.

Example knee MRI scan with biochemical information

Example knee MRI scan with biochemical information (acquired at the Herston Imaging Research Facility, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Brisbane, Australia). Two MRI protocols describing tissue biochemical properties (left: T2 relaxation time in milliseconds, right: gagCEST signal as percentage asymmetry of the magnetisation transfer ratio) are visualised in regions corresponding to the knee cartilage. Distribution of biochemical MRI signal can be used for quantitative assessment of tissue health and diagnosis of cartilage degeneration and other injuries.

 

Team and Contact

Dr Ales Neubert: ales.neubert@csiro.au

Dr Jurgen Fripp: Jurgen.fripp@csiro.au