Aging of the human synovium: an in vivo and ex vivo morphological study.
Age-associated changes of the human synovium have been investigated by microarthroscopy, optical and electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and cytochemistry. The knee joints of nineteen 15- to 56-year-old subjects, classified as normal by inspection, were carefully examined by microarthroscopy; small synovial tissue biopsy specimens from both the suprapatellar pouch and the medial tibiofemoral gutter were taken. Microarthroscopy showed that the villi were more numerous and the vascular network and cell distribution and profiles less regular in aged individuals. These data were confirmed by scanning electron microscopy, which also showed large areas of the synovial surface devoid of cells and collagen bundles in contact with the joint cavity in aged subjects. Light and transmission electron microscopy confirmed these data and allowed evaluation of the number, distribution, shape, and internal organization of cells as well as the distribution of vessels and the organization of the extracellular matrix in the full thickness of the synovium (down to 2 mm). Particular attention was paid to synovial lining cells, among which three main phenotypes could be recognized: synthetic type (present at all ages and hypertrophied in aged subjects), macrophagelike (increasing with age), and fibroblastlike. Collagen increased with age. Further studies are needed for comprehensive understanding of age-associated changes in the human synovium.DOI: