Articular cartilage is an enduring tissue. For most individuals, articular cartilage facilitates a lifetime of pain-free ambulation, supporting millions of loading cycles from activities of daily living. Although early studies into osteoarthritis focused on the role of mechanical fatigue in articular cartilage degeneration, much is still unknown regarding its strength and endurance characteristics. The compressive strength of juvenile, bovine articular cartilage explants was determined to be loading rate-dependent, reaching a maximum strength of 29.5 ± 4.8 MPa at a strain rate of 0.10 %/sec. The fatigue and endurance properties of articular cartilage were characterized utilizing a material testing system, as well as a custom, validated instrument termed the two degrees-of-freedom endurance meter (endurometer). These instruments characterized fatigue in articular cartilage explants at loading levels ranging from 10 to 80 % strength (%S), up to 100,000 cycles. Cartilage explants displayed characteristics of fatigue – fatigue life increased as the loading magnitude decreased. All explants failed within 14,000 cycles at loading levels between 50 and 80 %S. At 10 and 20 %S, all explants endured 100,000 loading cycles. There was no significant difference in equilibrium compressive modulus between run-out explants and unloaded controls, although the pooled modulus increased in response to testing. Histological staining and biochemical assays revealed no material changes in collagen, sulfated glycosaminoglycan, or hydration content between unloaded controls and explants cyclically loaded to run-out. These results suggest articular cartilage may have a putative endurance limit of 20 %S (5.86 MPa), with implications for articular cartilage biomechanics and mechanobiology.
- Articular cartilage
- Cyclic loading
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Biomedical Engineering