, Volume 5, Issue 2-3, pp 123-132
Date: 28 Feb 2006

Effect of Compressive Strain on Cell Viability in Statically Loaded Articular Cartilage

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Abstract

Physiological loading of articulating joints is necessary for normal cartilage function. However, conditions of excessive overloading or trauma can cause cartilage injury resulting in matrix damage and cell death. The objective of this study was to evaluate chondrocyte viability within mechanically compressed articular cartilage removed from immature and mature bovine knees. Twenty-three mature and 68 immature cartilage specimens were subjected to static uniaxial confined-creep compressions of 0–70% and the extent of cell death was measured using fluorescent microscopic imaging. In both age groups, cell death was always initiated at the articular surface and increased linearly in depth with increasing strain magnitude. However, most of the cell death was localized within the superficial zone (SZ) of the cartilage matrix with the depth never greater than ~ 500 μm or 25% of the thickness of the test specimen. The immature cartilage was found to have a significantly greater (> 2 times) amount (depth) of cell death compared to the mature cartilage, especially at the higher strains. This finding was attributed to the lower compressive modulus of the immature cartilage in the SZ compared to that of the mature cartilage, resulting in a greater local matrix strain and concomitant cell surface membrane strain in this zone when the matrix was compressed. These results provide further insight into the capacity of articular cartilage in different age groups to resist the severity of traumatic injury from compressive loads.