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J Biomed Mater Res. 1999;48(2):99-107.

Biomechanical and structural characteristics of canine femoral and tibial cartilage.

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  • 1Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Kuopio University Hospital, Finland.


To analyze the interrelationships between the structure, composition, and mechanical properties of articular cartilage, canine knee (n = 10) femoral and tibial cartilages were used as experimental tissues. The biomechanical properties, instant shear modulus (IM), and equilibrium shear modulus (EM) of articular cartilage were investigated using an in situ indentation creep technique. The local variations in the concentration of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in the cartilage were measured with a microspectrophotometer after safranin-O staining of histological sections. Using a computer-based quantitative polarized light microscopy method, area-specific measurements of the optical path difference were performed to quantitate collagen-related optical retardation (gamma) of cartilage zones. The IM and EM were 131.3 and 51.2% higher (p < 0.001) in the femoral cartilage than in the tibial cartilage, respectively. The mean thickness of the superficial zone and the relative proportion of the superficial zone from the total uncalcified cartilage was 107.1 and 155.3% higher (p < 0.001) at the femoral test points than in the tibial ones, respectively. The mean thickness of the tibial uncalcified cartilage was 21.1% higher (p < 0.001) than the thickness of the femoral cartilage. The GAG concentration of the tibial cartilage was higher (14.8%, p < 0.001) than that of the femoral cartilage, especially in the superficial zone (50.0%, p < 0.05), whereas the gamma of the collagen network in the superficial zone of the femoral cartilage was 64.7% higher (p < 0.001) than in the tibial cartilage. The percent relative thickness and retardation gamma of the superficial zone correlated positively with the indentation stiffness of the canine knee articular cartilage. These observations indicate that cartilage is structurally inhomogenous and layered tissue and the local organization of collagen and GAG concentration of the articular cartilage regulate the biomechanical properties of the tissue. The structure and composition of the superficial articular cartilage significantly affects the indentation response of the canine knee articular cartilage.

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