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J Orthop Res. 2000 Nov;18(6):891-8.

Viscoelastic properties of chondrocytes from normal and osteoarthritic human cartilage.

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Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


The deformation behavior and mechanical properties of articular chondrocytes are believed to play an important role in their response to mechanical loading of the extracellular matrix. This study utilized the micropipette aspiration test to measure the viscoelastic properties of chondrocytes isolated from macroscopically normal or end-stage osteoarthritic cartilage. A three-parameter standard linear solid was used to model the viscoelastic behavior of the cells. Significant differences were found between the mechanical properties of chondrocytes isolated from normal and osteoarthritic cartilage. Specifically, osteoarthritic chondrocytes exhibited a significantly higher equilibrium modulus (0.33 +/- 0.23 compared with 0.24 +/- 0.11 kPa), instantaneous modulus (0.63 +/- 0.51 compared with 0.41 +/- 0.17 kPa), and apparent viscosity (5.8 +/- 6.5 compared with 3.0 +/- 1.8 kPa-s) compared with chondrocytes isolated from macroscopically normal, nonosteoarthritic cartilage. The elastic moduli and relaxation time constant determined experimentally in this study were used to estimate the apparent biphasic properties of the chondrocyte on the basis of the equation for the gel relaxation time of a biphasic material. The differences in viscoelastic properties may reflect alterations in the structure and composition of the chondrocyte cytoskeleton that have previously been associated with osteoarthritic cartilage. Coupled with earlier theoretical models of cell-matrix interactions in articular cartilage, the increased elastic and viscous properties suggest that the mechanical environment of the chondrocyte may be altered in osteoarthritic cartilage.

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