Quantitative measurements of cartilage wear have been challenging, with no method having yet emerged as a standard. This study tested the hypothesis that latest-generation particle analyzers are capable of detecting cartilage wear debris generated during in vitro loading experiments that last 24 h or less, by producing measurable content significantly above background noise levels otherwise undetectable through standard biochemical assays. Immature bovine cartilage disks (4 mm diameter, 1.3 mm thick) were tested against glass using reciprocal sliding under unconfined compression creep for 24 h. Control groups were used to assess various sources of contamination. Results demonstrated that cartilage samples subjected to frictional loading produced particulate volume significantly higher than background noise and contamination levels at all tested time points (1, 2, 6, and 24 h, p < 0.042). The particle counter was able to detect very small levels of wear (less than 0.02% of the tissue sample by volume), whereas no significant differences were observed in biochemical assays for collagen or glycosaminoglycans among any of the groups or time points. These findings confirm that latest-generation particle analyzers are capable of detecting very low wear levels in cartilage experiments conducted over a period no greater than 24 h.

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