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, 40 (8), 1862-70

Characterization of Articular Cartilage by Combining Microscopic Analysis With a Fibril-Reinforced Finite-Element Model


Characterization of Articular Cartilage by Combining Microscopic Analysis With a Fibril-Reinforced Finite-Element Model

Petro Julkunen et al. J Biomech.


Load-bearing characteristics of articular cartilage are impaired during tissue degeneration. Quantitative microscopy enables in vitro investigation of cartilage structure but determination of tissue functional properties necessitates experimental mechanical testing. The fibril-reinforced poroviscoelastic (FRPVE) model has been used successfully for estimation of cartilage mechanical properties. The model includes realistic collagen network architecture, as shown by microscopic imaging techniques. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationships between the cartilage proteoglycan (PG) and collagen content as assessed by quantitative microscopic findings, and model-based mechanical parameters of the tissue. Site-specific variation of the collagen network moduli, PG matrix modulus and permeability was analyzed. Cylindrical cartilage samples (n=22) were harvested from various sites of the bovine knee and shoulder joints. Collagen orientation, as quantitated by polarized light microscopy, was incorporated into the finite-element model. Stepwise stress-relaxation experiments in unconfined compression were conducted for the samples, and sample-specific models were fitted to the experimental data in order to determine values of the model parameters. For comparison, Fourier transform infrared imaging and digital densitometry were used for the determination of collagen and PG content in the same samples, respectively. The initial and strain-dependent fibril network moduli as well as the initial permeability correlated significantly with the tissue collagen content. The equilibrium Young's modulus of the nonfibrillar matrix and the strain dependency of permeability were significantly associated with the tissue PG content. The present study demonstrates that modern quantitative microscopic methods in combination with the FRPVE model are feasible methods to characterize the structure-function relationships of articular cartilage.

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