Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 1297–1315 | Cite as

How changes in interconnectivity affect the bulk properties of articular cartilage: a fibre network study

  • M. A. Bilton
  • A. Thambyah
  • R. J. ClarkeEmail author
Original Paper


The remarkable compressive strength of articular cartilage arises from the mechanical interactions between the tension-resisting collagen fibrils and swelling proteoglycan proteins within the tissue. These interactions are facilitated by a significant level of interconnectivity between neighbouring collagen fibrils within the extracellular matrix. A reduction in interconnectivity is suspected to occur during the early stages of osteoarthritic degeneration. However, the relative contribution of these interconnections towards the bulk mechanical properties of articular cartilage has remained an open question. In this study, we present a simple 2D fibre network model which explicitly represents the microstructure of articular cartilage as collection of discrete nodes and linear springs. The transverse stiffness and swelling properties of this fibre network are studied, and a semi-analytic relationship which relates these two macroscopic properties via microscopic interconnectivity is derived. By comparing this derived expression to previously published experimental data, we show that although a reduction in network interconnectivity accounts for some of the observed changes in the mechanical properties of articular cartilage as degeneration occurs, a decrease in matrix interconnectivity alone do not provide a full account of this process.


Articular cartilage Interconnectivity Fibre network model Cartilage degeneration 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10237_2018_1027_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (113 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 112 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Engineering Science, Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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