Tissue-engineered articular cartilage exhibits tension-compression nonlinearity reminiscent of the native cartilage

J Biomech. 2013 Jul 26;46(11):1784-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2013.05.017. Epub 2013 Jun 21.


The tensile modulus of articular cartilage is much larger than its compressive modulus. This tension-compression nonlinearity enhances interstitial fluid pressurization and decreases the frictional coefficient. The current set of studies examines the tensile and compressive properties of cylindrical chondrocyte-seeded agarose constructs over different developmental stages through a novel method that combines osmotic loading, video microscopy, and uniaxial unconfined compression testing. This method was previously used to examine tension-compression nonlinearity in native cartilage. Engineered cartilage, cultured under free-swelling (FS) or dynamically loaded (DL) conditions, was tested in unconfined compression in hypertonic and hypotonic salt solutions. The apparent equilibrium modulus decreased with increasing salt concentration, indicating that increasing the bath solution osmolarity shielded the fixed charges within the tissue, shifting the measured moduli along the tension-compression curve and revealing the intrinsic properties of the tissue. With this method, we were able to measure the tensile (401±83kPa for FS and 678±473kPa for DL) and compressive (161±33kPa for FS and 348±203kPa for DL) moduli of the same engineered cartilage specimens. These moduli are comparable to values obtained from traditional methods, validating this technique for measuring the tensile and compressive properties of hydrogel-based constructs. This study shows that engineered cartilage exhibits tension-compression nonlinearity reminiscent of the native tissue, and that dynamic deformational loading can yield significantly higher tensile properties.

Keywords: Collagen; Compressive properties; Optimized digital image correlation; Osmotic loading; Tensile properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology*
  • Compressive Strength
  • Dogs
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Models, Biological
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Osmotic Pressure
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength
  • Tissue Engineering*