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Biomech Model Mechanobiol. 2018 Oct;17(5):1297-1315. doi: 10.1007/s10237-018-1027-6. Epub 2018 May 18.

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

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Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Auckland, 20 Symonds St., Auckland, 1010, New Zealand.
Department of Engineering Science, Faculty of Engineering, University of Auckland, 70 Symonds St., Auckland, 1010, New Zealand.


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; Cartilage degeneration; Fibre network model; Interconnectivity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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