Native articular cartilage exhibits tension-compression nonlinearity (TCN), where the compressive modulus is lower than its relatively high tensile modulus [1–2]. TCN produces in restricted lateral expansion of the tissue upon axial compression. We previously demnostrated that osmotic swelling can be used to measure the TCN of engineered cartilage by placing the tissue in an initial state of tensile strain. Incremental application of compression can be used to study the tissue’s mechanical properties as it transitions from tension to compression [3]. Although engineered cartilage is able to achieve the Young’s modulus (E Y) and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content of native tissue, the collagen content and dynamic modulus (G*) consistently underperform the native tissue. Removing GAG with chondroitinase ABC (cABC) has been shown to significantly decrease the tissue properties immediately after digestion but the properties rebound, with improved collagen content and G* compared to undigested controls [4]. Furthermore, we have previously shown that cABC digestion significantly increases TCN in engineered cartilage [3]. Dynamic loading (DL) has been shown to significantly increase the mechanical properties without significantly altering biochemical composition of engineered cartilage, however the mechanism through which DL modulates the mechanical strength of engineered cartilage may be due in part to improved extracellular matrix (ECM) organization [5]. We therefore hypothesize that cABC digestion and DL will improve the tensile properties of engineered cartilage.

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