Articular cartilage is the connective tissue that lines the articulating surfaces of diarthrodial joints, providing a low-friction, load-bearing surface during joint motion. Articular cartilage comprises of a single cell type, the chondrocyte, embedded within an extensive extracellular matrix (ECM). Each chondrocyte is surrounded by a narrow region called the pericellular matrix (PCM) that is distinct from the ECM in both its biochemical composition [1] and biomechanical properties [2]. While multiple techniques have been used to measure the mechanical properties of the PCM, including micropipette aspiration of isolated chondrons [2], these studies required mechanical or enzymatic extraction of the chondrocyte and surrounding PCM (i.e., the “chondron” [1]) from the cartilage, and the influence of this isolation process on PCM properties is unknown. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) provides a high resolution form of nano- and microindentation approaches that can be used to measure local mechanical properties in situ [3,4]. The objective of this study was to use AFM to quantify the biomechanical properties of the ECM and PCM of human articular cartilage in situ.

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