Spatial organization as diagnostic marker

Upon discovering a then unknown component of the human cartilage architecture, the “spatial organization” of joint surface chondrocytes, Bernd fused fluorescence microscopy with complex stochastic analyses of cell coordinates, normally used on satellite images in geography and geology. This innovative definition of visualized cells as mathematical point patterns allowed Bernd to devise an image-based method for diagnosing early pre-clinical osteoarthritis / tissue degeneration prior to the level of structural damage that current clinically used diagnostic methods can detect.

Based on this strategy, to use the earliest recognizable changes in the spatial organization as an image-based diagnostic marker, Bernd is developing the fundamentals for an arthroscopic tool for the diagnosis of pre-clinical early osteoarthritis and for monitoring biological cartilage therapies.


Proof-of-concept for the detection of early osteoarthritis pathology by clinically applicable endomicroscopy and quantitative AI-supported optical biopsy Running headline: Quantitative AI-supported optical biopsy. Tschaikowsky M, Selig M, Brander S, Balzer BN, Hugel T, Rolauffs B. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2021 Feb;29:269-279 (IF: 4.793)

Hybrid fluorescence-AFM explores articular surface degeneration in early osteoarthritis across length scales. Tschaikowsky M, Neumann T, Brander S, Haschke H, Rolauffs B, Balzer BN, Hugel T. Acta Biomater. 2021 Mar 20:S1742-7061(21)00182-3 (IF: 7.242)

Loss of spatial organization and destruction of the pericellular matrix in early osteoarthritis in vivo and in a novel in vitro methodology. Felka T, Rothdiener R, Bast S,  Uynuk-Ool T,  Zouhair S, Ochs BG, De Zwart P, Stoeckle U, Aicher WK, Hart ML, Shiozawa T, Grodzinsky AJ, Schenke-Layland K, Venkatesan JK, Cucchiarini M,  Madry H, Kurz B, Rolauffs B *. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2016; 24:1200-1209 (IF: 4. 535)

The spatial organization of joint surface chondrocytes: review of its potential roles in tissue functioning, disease, and early, pre-clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritis. Aicher WK, Rolauffs B *. Review, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 2014; 73:645-653 (IF: 9.111)

Modeling chondrocyte patterns by elliptical cluster processes. Meinhardt M, Lück S, Martin P, Felka T, Aicher W, Rolauffs B, Schmidt V. J Struct Biol. 2012; 177: 447-458 (IF: 3.361)

Onset of pre-clinical osteoarthritis: The angular spatial organization permits early diagnosis. Rolauffs B, Rothdiener M, Bahrs C, Badke A, Weise K, Kuettner KE, Kurz B, Aurich M, Grodzinsky AJ, Aicher WK. Arthritis Rheum. 2011; 63:1637-47 (IF: 7.477)

Editorial comment: Closing ranks: the chondrocytes‘ move in bad times or biomechanical job sharing? Mollenhauer JA. Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Jun;63(6):1475-6.

Proliferative re-modeling of the spatial organization of human superficial chondrocytes distant from focal early osteoarthritis (OA). Rolauffs B *, Williams JM, Aurich M, Grodzinsky AJ, Kuettner KE, Cole AA. Arthritis Rheum. 2010;62:489-98 (IF: 7.477)

Distinct horizontal patterns in the spatial organization of superficial zone chondrocytes of human joints. Rolauffs B, Williams JM, Grodzinsky AJ, Kuettner KE, Cole AA. J Struct Biol. 2008;162:335-44 (IF: 3.361)

Meet the team

Professor Bernd Rolauffs, M.D.

Director of the G.E.R.N. Research Center

Section Head, Translational Medicine for Cell-Based Therapies

Univ.-Professor in Tissue Replacement

Dept. of Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery, Freiburg University Medical Center


Habilitation at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen

Doctor in Medicine, Medical School in Münster, Germany


Dept. of Biochemistry, Rush University, Chicago, USA

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Biomedical Engineering, Boston, USA

Orthopedic RESIDENCY

Tübingen University Medical Center and BG Trauma Center Tübingen, Germany

Münster University Medical Center, Germany

Sunderland Royal Hospital, UK