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Preclinical imaging in osteoarthritis is a rapidly growing area with three principal objectives: to provide rapid, sensitive tools to monitor the course of experimental OA longitudinally; to describe the temporal relationship between tissue-specific pathologies over the course of disease; and to use molecular probes to measure disease activity in vivo. Research in this area can be broadly divided into those techniques that monitor structural changes in tissues (microCT, microMRI, ultrasound) and those that detect molecular disease activity (positron emission tomography (PET), optical and optoacoustic imaging). The former techniques have largely evolved from experience in human joint imaging and have been refined for small animal use. Some of the latter tools, such as optical imaging, have been developed in preclinical models and may have translational benefit in the future for patient stratification and for monitoring disease progression and response to treatment. In this narrative review we describe these methodologies and discuss the benefits to animal research, understanding OA pathogenesis, and in the development of human biomarkers.

Original publication




Journal article


Osteoarthritis Cartilage

Publication Date





874 - 884


In vivo imaging, Optical imaging, Osteoarthritis, Photoacoustic imaging, Protease-activated probes, microCT, microMRI