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Title: Quantification of Cartilage Poroelastic Material Properties Via Analysis of Loading-Induced Cell Death

Articular cartilage (AC) is a load-bearing tissue that covers long bones in synovial joints. The biphasic/poroelastic mechanical properties of AC help it to protect joints by distributing loads, absorbing impact forces, and reducing friction. Unfortunately, alterations in these mechanical properties adversely impact cartilage function and precede joint degeneration in the form of osteoarthritis (OA). Thus, understanding what factors regulate the poroelastic mechanical properties of cartilage is of great scientific and clinical interest. Transgenic mouse models provide a valuable platform to delineate how specific genes contribute to cartilage mechanical properties. However, the poroelastic mechanical properties of murine articular cartilage are challenging to measure due to its small size (thickness ∼ 50 microns). In the current study, our objective was to test whether the poroelastic mechanical properties of murine articular cartilage can be determined based solely on time-dependent cell death measurements under constant loading conditions. We hypothesized that in murine articular cartilage subjected to constant, sub-impact loading from an incongruent surface, cell death area and tissue strain are closely correlated. We further hypothesized that the relationship between cell death area and tissue strain can be used—in combination with inverse finite element modeling—to compute poroelastic mechanical properties. To test these hypotheses, murine cartilage-on-bone explants from different anatomical locations were subjected to constant loading conditions by an incongruent surface in a custom device. Cell death area increased over time and scaled linearly with strain, which rose in magnitude over time due to poroelastic creep. Thus, we were able to infer tissue strain from cell death area measurements. Moreover, using tissue strain values inferred from cell death area measurements, we applied an inverse finite element modeling procedure to compute poroelastic material properties and acquired data consistent with previous studies. Collectively, our findings demonstrate in the key role poroelastic creep plays in mediating cell survival in mechanically loaded cartilage and verify that cell death area can be used as a surrogate measure of tissue strain that enables determination of murine cartilage mechanical properties.

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Journal of Biomechanical Engineering
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Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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