The following is a summary of the “Advanced glycation end-product accumulation differs by location and sex in aged osteoarthritic human menisci,” published in the March 2023 issue of Osteoarthritis and Cartilage by Gouldin, et al.

Meniscus degeneration is associated with advancing age, which increases the risk of injury, accelerates the progression of osteoarthritis (OA), and frequently necessitates a total knee replacement. Age-related accumulation of non-enzymatic crosslinks and adducts in collagen, known as advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), alters tissue mechanics and cell function, leading to increased injury and inflammation. While fluorescent and non-fluorescent AGEs are known to play a significant role in the age-related degradation of tissues throughout the body, their role in meniscus degeneration is less well understood. 

To better understand the changes that may lead to age-related meniscal degeneration, this study aimed to characterize changes in aged OA menisci by evaluating zonal AGE accumulation. Without identifying information, human menisci (N = 48, ages 52-84) were collected from patients undergoing total knee replacement. Gross morphology, confocal microscopy, and biochemical assays were utilized to evaluate ECM changes. In addition, patient age, zonal region, and sex were compared to the accumulation of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), collagen, and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

DNA, GAGs, and collagen concentrations hardly changed with age or region. However, collagen degradation and AGE accumulation accelerated with age. The latter was more pronounced in the meniscal horns than in the central body and male menisci than in female menisci. In sum, this study expands our understanding of the localized alterations that age and OA bring to human menisci. Furthermore, these findings point to AGEs as a potential target for slowing the onset and progression of age-related meniscal tears, degeneration, and OA.