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Ann Biomed Eng. 2001 Jun;29(6):476-82.

Chondrocyte differentiation is modulated by frequency and duration of cyclic compressive loading.

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Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA.


As part of a program of research aimed at determining the role of mechanical forces in connective tissue differentiation, we have developed a model for investigating the effects of dynamic compressive loading on chondrocyte differentiation in vitro. In the current study, we examined the influence of cyclic compressive loading of chick limb bud mesenchymal cells to a constant peak stress of 9.25 kPa during each of the first 3 days in culture. Cells embedded in agarose gel were subjected to uniaxial, cyclic compression at 0.03, 0.15, or 0.33 Hz for 2 h. In addition, load durations of 12, 54, or 120 min were evaluated while holding frequency constant at 0.33 Hz. For a 2 h duration, there was no response to loading at 0.03 Hz. A significant increase in chondrocyte differentiation was associated with loading at 0.15 Hz, and an even greater increase with loading at 0.33 Hz. Holding frequency constant at 0.33 Hz, a loading duration of 12 min elicited no response, whereas chondrocyte differentiation was enhanced by loading for either 54 or 120 min. Although not statistically significant from the 120 min response, average cartilage nodule density and glycosaminoglycan synthesis rate were highest in the 54 min duration group. This result suggests that cells may be sensitive to the level of cumulative (nonrecoverable) compressive strain, as well as to the dynamic strain history.

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