Biomechanics of single zonal chondrocytes

Adrian C. Shieh, Kyriacos A. Athanasiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Articular cartilage has a distinct zonal architecture, and previous work has shown that chondrocytes from different zones exhibit variations in gene expression and biosynthesis. In this study, the material properties of single chondrocytes from the superficial and middle/deep zones of bovine distal metatarsal articular cartilage were determined using unconfined compression and digital videocapture. To determine the viscoelastic properties of zonal chondrocytes, unconfined creep compression experiments were performed and the resulting creep curves of individual cells were fit using a standard linear viscoelastic solid model. In the model, a fixed value of the Poisson's ratio was used, determined optically from direct compression of middle/deep chondrocytes. The two approaches used in this study yielded the following average material properties of single chondrocytes: Poisson's ratio of 0.26±0.08, instantaneous modulus of 1.06±0.82 kPa, relaxed modulus of 0.78±0.58 kPa, and apparent viscosity of 4.08±7.20 kPa s. Superficial zone chondrocytes were found to be significantly stiffer than middle/deep zone chondrocytes. Attachment time did not affect the stiffness of the cells. The zonal variation in viscoelastic properties may result from the distinct mechanical environments experienced by the cells in vivo. Identifying intrinsic differences in the biomechanics of superficial and middle/deep zone chondrocytes is an important component in understanding how biomechanics influence articular cartilage health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1595-1602
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Articular cartilage
  • Cytocompression
  • Poisson's ratio
  • Single cell mechanics
  • Viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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