The pericellular matrix (PCM) of articular cartilage is the narrow tissue region surrounding all chondrocytes. Together, the chondrocyte and its surrounding PCM have been termed the chondron. In normal cartilage, the presence of type VI collagen is exclusive to the PCM, and the PCM is believed to play a critical role in regulating biomechanical cell-matrix interactions. Since the PCM is stiffer than the chondrocyte, it has been hypothesized to play a critical role in protecting the cell while, simultaneously, facilitating the transmission of mechanical signals to the cell. Previous studies that represent the cell, PCM and extracellular matrix (ECM) as linear biphasic materials have supported this hypothesized role for the PCM [1–4]. Previous in vitro micropipette studies of isolated chondrons [5–7] have shown that the PCM Young’s modulus ranges between 25–70kPa in middle and deep zone cartilage, separating it by an order of magnitude from both the chondrocyte stiffness (∼1kPa) and ECM stiffness (∼1MPa). In recent years, Choi et al. [8] measured changes in the three-dimensional morphology of the chondron, in situ within the ECM, under equilibrium unconfined compression of porcine cartilage explants subjected to 10–50% compressive strain (Fig. 1). Their study employed a novel 3D confocal microscopy technique, based on immunolabeling of type VI collagen, that yielded ellipsoidal approximations of undeformed and deformed chondron shapes in the superficial, middle and deep zones of the explant. In this study, an efficient computational model, based on the boundary element method (BEM), was developed and used to estimate cartilage PCM linear elastic properties based on the data reported in Choi et al. [8] for the case of middle zone cartilage under 10% compressive strain.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.