We examined, cytogenetically and by in situ hybridization (ISH) techniques, the synovia, osteophytes, and articular cartilage from 32 patients with pronounced osteoarthritis (OA), a prevalent form of arthropathy characterized by progressive reduction of articular cartilage, and synovial samples from 17 control patients. In short-term cultures, clonal chromosome aberrations, in particular the gain of chromosomes 7 (+7) and 5 (+5), were found to be strongly associated with OA. These aberrations were found in almost 90% of the cultures from synovia and osteophytes, whereas only 1/11 synovial samples from joints unequivocally unaffected by OA had cells with +5 or +7. The in vivo nature of trisomy 7 was demonstrated by ISH on uncultured cells, and serial passaging showed that cells with +7 had proliferative advantage in vitro. Thus, the combined data indicate that cells with somatic mutations appear early and may be influential in the disease process leading to OA.
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