It has been well established that articular cartilage is compositionally and mechanically inhomogeneous through its depth. To what extent this structural inhomogeneity is a prerequisite for appropriate cartilage function and integrity is not well understood. The first hypothesis to be tested in this study was that the depth-dependent inhomogeneity of the cartilage acts to maximize the interstitial fluid load support at the articular surface, to provide efficient frictional and wear properties. The second hypothesis was that the inhomogeneity produces a more homogeneous state of elastic stress in the matrix than would be achieved with uniform properties. We have, for the first time, simultaneously determined depth-dependent tensile and compressive properties of human patellofemoral cartilage from unconfined compression stress relaxation tests. The results show that the tensile modulus increases significantly from in the deep zone to at the superficial zone, while the compressive modulus decreases from to The experimental measurements were then implemented with the finite-element method to compute the response of an inhomogeneous and homogeneous cartilage layer to loading. The finite-element models demonstrate that structural inhomogeneity acts to increase the interstitial fluid load support at the articular surface. However, the state of stress, strain, or strain energy density in the solid matrix remained inhomogeneous through the depth of the articular layer, whether or not inhomogeneous material properties were employed. We suggest that increased fluid load support at the articular surface enhances the frictional and wear properties of articular cartilage, but that the tissue is not functionally adapted to produce homogeneous stress, strain, or strain energy density distributions. Interstitial fluid pressurization, but not a homogeneous elastic stress distribution, appears thus to be a prerequisite for the functional and morphological integrity of the cartilage.
Inhomogeneous Cartilage Properties Enhance Superficial Interstitial Fluid Support and Frictional Properties, But Do Not Provide a Homogeneous State of Stress
Contributed by the Bioengineering Division for publication in the JOURNAL OF BIOMECHANICAL ENGINEERING. Manuscript received by the Bioengineering Division October 23, 2002; revision received April 19, 2003. Associate Editor: Lori Setton.
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Krishnan , R., Park, S., Eckstein, F., and Ateshian, G. A. (October 9, 2003). "Inhomogeneous Cartilage Properties Enhance Superficial Interstitial Fluid Support and Frictional Properties, But Do Not Provide a Homogeneous State of Stress ." ASME. J Biomech Eng. October 2003; 125(5): 569–577. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.1610018
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