• articular cartilage;
  • bovine patella model;
  • calcified cartilage;
  • early osteoarthritis;
  • grading systems;
  • histology


The bovine patella model has been used extensively for studying important structure–function aspects of articular cartilage, including its degeneration. However, the degeneration seen in this model has, to our knowledge, never been adequately compared with human osteoarthritis (OA). In this study, bovine patellae displaying normal to severely degenerate states were compared with human tissue displaying intact cartilage to severe OA. Comparisons of normal and OA features were made with histological scoring, morphometric measurements, and qualitative observations. Differential interference contrast microscopy was used to image early OA changes in the articular cartilage matrix and to investigate whether this method provided comparable quality of visualisation of key structural features with standard histology. The intact bovine cartilage was found to be similar to healthy human cartilage and the degenerate bovine cartilage resembled the human OA tissues with regard to structural disruption, cellularity changes, and staining loss. The extent of degeneration in the bovine tissues matched the mild to moderate range of human OA tissues; however, no bovine samples exhibited late-stage OA. Additionally, in both bovine and human tissues, cartilage degeneration was accompanied by calcified cartilage thickening, tidemark duplication, and the advancement of the cement line by protrusions of bony spicules into the calcified cartilage. This comparison of degeneration in the bovine and human tissues suggests a common pathway for the progression of OA and thus the bovine patella is proposed to be an appropriate model for investigating the structural changes associated with early OA.