Cartilage stress-relaxation is affected by both the charge concentration and valence of solution cations

R. K. June, K. L. Mejia, J. R. Barone, David P Fyhrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: Understanding the mechanical functions of specific cartilage molecules such as aggrecan is important for understanding both healthy cartilage and disease progression. Cartilage is primarily composed of chondrocytes and an extracellular matrix consisting of multiple biopolymers, ions, and water. Aggrecan is one matrix biopolymer which consists of a core protein and multiple anionic glycosaminoglycans. Previous research has demonstrated that the stiffness of extracted aggrecan decreases under increased solution cation concentration, and the purpose of this study was to determine whether changes in solution ion concentration resulted in changes in tissue-level viscoelastic properties. Methods: Middle-zone explants of bovine calf patellofemoral cartilage were harvested and cultured overnight before mechanical testing. Repeated stress-relaxation and cyclical loading tests were performed after equilibration in solutions of 0.15 M and 1 M NaCl and 0.075 M and 0.5 M CaCl2. A stretched exponential model was fit to the stress-relaxation data. Storage and loss moduli were determined from the cyclical loading data. Results: Changes in ionic strength and species affected both stress-relaxation and cyclical loading of cartilage. Stress-relaxation was faster under higher ionic strength. CaCl2 concentration increases resulted in decreased peak stress, while NaCl increases resulted in decreased equilibrium stress. Storage and loss moduli were affected differently by NaCl and CaCl2. Conclusions: These results show that cartilage stress-relaxation proceeds faster under higher concentrations of solution cations, consistent with the theory of polymer dynamics. These data demonstrate the complexity of cartilage mechanical properties and suggest that aggrecan stiffness may be important in tissue-level cartilage viscoelastic properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-676
Number of pages8
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Cartilage biomechanics
  • Cartilage mechanics
  • Flow-independent viscoelasticity
  • Polymer dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rheumatology


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