Morphofunctional and Ultrastructural Evaluation of Hip Joint Development in Human Fetuses

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Mariane Cristina Donato Simões; Rafael Gabaret Agopian; Henrique Antônio Berwanger de Amorim Cabrita & Edson Aparecido Liberti


The normal sequential development of the hip joint (HJ) was considered for the evaluation of the morphological and ultrastructural aspects of the joint cartilage of the proximal femoral head epiphysis in human fetuses between 16 to 31 weeks of intra uterine life (IUL). Twenty human fetuses were fixed in 10 % formalin solution. Fetuses were divided into 4 groups (n=5): Group 1 (G1): 16-19 weeks IUL; Group 2 (G2): 20-23 weeks IUL; Group 3 (G3): 24-27 weeks IUL and Group 4 (G4): 28-31 weeks IUL. The right moieties of the HJ were subjected to light microscopy to determine the chondrocyte area, volume, and density and the extracellular matrix (ECM) density. The collagen component in ECM was qualitatively evaluated using Safranin-O and picrosirius techniques under polarized light. The left portions were analyzed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The advance of age revealed a gradual increase in chondrocyte area and volume and in ECM density, and a decrease in chondrocyte density. The apparent prevalence of type II collagen fibers in G1 and type III collagen fibers in G4, as well as a balance between type I and III collagen fibers in G2 and G3 suggest a process of cartilaginous evolution and repair. The pantographic organization of the collagen fiber meshes from the depth to the cartilage surface of the femoral head suggests that the arcade collagen network architecture starts at the fetal stage, regardless of the compressive forces applied. The morphological data may contribute not only to a better understanding of the maturation and cartilage organization in this area but also to serve as a theoretical basis for aspects related to diseases and joint malformations.

KEY WORDS: Anatomy; Human fetus; Hip joint; Chondrocytes; Collagen.

How to cite this article

SIMÕES, M. C. D.; AGOPIAN, R. G.; CABRITA, H. A. B. A. & LIBERTI, E. A. Morphofunctional and ultrastructural evaluation of hip joint development in human fetuses. Int. J. Morphol., 37(4):1450-1455, 2019.