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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 1999 Mar;7(2):155-64.

Effects of intermittently applied cyclic loading on proteoglycan metabolism and swelling behaviour of articular cartilage explants.

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  • 1Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universit├Ąt Bonn, Bonn, Germany.



The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of tissue load, frequency and load duration on the biosynthesis and release of proteoglycans (PGs) as well as on the swelling behaviour of cultured mature bovine articular cartilage superimposed with intermittent loads.


Cyclic compressive pressure was introduced for 1, 3 or 6 days using a sinusoidal waveform of 0.5 Hz-frequency with a peak stress of 0.1, 0.5 or 1.0 MPa. The loads were applied for a period of 10 seconds (s) followed by a load-free period of 10, 100 or 1000 s. The incorporation of [35S]-SO4 into glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) during the final 18 h, the content of GAGs and DNA as well as the deformation of loaded explants were determined.


The PG synthesis is sensitive to changes in the loading conditions applied, whereas the release of newly synthesized PG is not. A maximum PG synthesis is observed at day 3, and under load-free intervals of 100 s. After 6 days of loading the release of endogenous PGs is significantly elevated, the viability of superficial chondrocytes decreased, and cartilage swelling is observed.


Considering numerous reports of elevated PG levels synthesized as well as released from human and experimental osteoarthritic cartilage, our results implicate that degenerative processes can also be mimicked by applying well-defined mechanical conditions as described here.

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