The meniscus is essential to the functioning of the knee, offering load support, congruency, lubrication, and protection to the underlying cartilage. Meniscus degeneration affects ∼35% of the population, and potentially leads to knee osteoarthritis. The etiology of meniscal degeneration remains to be elucidated, although many factors have been considered. However, the role of nutritional supply to meniscus cells in the pathogenesis of meniscus degeneration has been so far overlooked. Nutrients are delivered to meniscal cells through the surrounding synovial fluid and the blood vessels present in the outer region of the meniscus. During maturation, vascularization progressively recedes up to the outer 10% of the tissue, leaving the majority avascular. It has been hypothesized that vascular recession might significantly reduce the nutrient supply to cells, thus contributing to meniscus degeneration. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of vascular recession on nutrient levels available to meniscus cells. This was done by developing a novel computational model for meniscus homeostasis based on mixture theory. It was found that transvascular transport of nutrients in the vascularized region of the meniscus contributes to more than 40% of the glucose content in the core of the tissue. However, vascular recession does not significantly alter nutrient levels in the meniscus, reducing at most 5% of the nutrient content in the central portion of the tissue. Therefore, our analysis suggests that reduced vascularity is not likely a primary initiating source in tissue degeneration. However, it does feasibly play a key role in inability for self-repair, as seen clinically.
Keywords: Cellular metabolism; Finite element analysis; Theory of reactive mixture; Transvascular transport.
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