Changes in Matrix Components in the Developing Human Meniscus

William Fedje-Johnston, Ferenc Tóth, Melissa Albersheim, Cathy S. Carlson, Kevin G. Shea, Aaron Rendahl, Marc Tompkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Treatment of meniscal tears is necessary to maintain the long-term health of the knee joint. Morphological elements, particularly vascularity, that play an important role in meniscal healing are known to change during skeletal development. Purpose: To quantitatively evaluate meniscal vascularity, cellularity, collagen, and proteoglycan content by age and location during skeletal development. Study Design: Descriptive laboratory study. Methods: Medial and lateral menisci from 14 male and 7 female cadavers aged 1 month to 11 years were collected and evaluated. For each meniscus, histologic and immunohistologic techniques were used to establish the ratio of the area of proteoglycan (safranin O) positivity to the total area (proteoglycan ratio), collagen type I and type II immunostaining positivity, number of blood vessels, and cell density. These features were evaluated over the entire meniscus and also separately in 5 circumferential segments: anterior root, anterior horn, body, posterior horn, and posterior root. Additionally, cell density and number of blood vessels were examined in 3 radial regions: inner, middle, and periphery. Results: Age was associated with a decrease in meniscal vessel count and cell density, while the proteoglycan ratio increased with skeletal maturity. Differences in vessel counts, cellular density, and proteoglycan ratio in different anatomic segments as well as in the inner, middle, and peripheral regions of the developing menisci were also observed. Collagen immunostaining results were inconsistent and not analyzed. Conclusion: The cellularity and vascularity of the developing meniscus decrease with age and the proteoglycan content increases with age. All of these parameters are influenced by location within the meniscus. Clinical Relevance: Age and location differences in meniscal morphology, particularly in the number of blood vessels, are expected to influence meniscal healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Todd Huft, Dan Tolley, and Allosource for the provision of tissues. Additionally, they thank Paula Overn and Thomas Pengo, PhD, for their technical assistance.


  • developing meniscus
  • meniscal composition
  • meniscal healing
  • meniscal tears
  • meniscus

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