Tensile stiffness of articular cartilage is much greater than its compressive stiffness and plays an essential role even in compressive properties by increasing transient fluid pressures during physiological loading. Recent studies of nonlinear properties of articular cartilage in compression revealed several physiologically pertinent nonlinear behaviors, all of which required that cartilage tensile stiffness increase significantly with stretch. We therefore performed sequences of uniaxial tension tests on fresh bovine articular cartilage slices using a protocol that allowed several hours to attain equilibrium and measured longitudinal and transverse tissue strain. By testing bovine cartilage from different ages (6 months to 6 years) we found that equilibrium and transient tensile modulus increased significantly with maturation and age, from 0 to 15 MPa at equilibrium and from 10 to 28 MPa transiently. Our results indicate that cartilage stiffens with age in a manner similar to other highly hydrated connective tissues, possibly due to age-dependent content of enzymatic and nonenzymatic collagen cross links. The long relaxation period used in our tests (5–10 hours) was necessary in order to attain equilibrium and avoid a very significant overestimation of equilibrium modulus that occurs when much shorter times are used (15–30 minutes). We also found that equilibrium and transient tensile modulus increased nonlinearly when cartilage is stretched from 0 to 10% strain without any previous tare load. Although our results estimate a nonlinear increase in tensile stiffness with stretch that is an order of magnitude lower than that required to predict nonlinear properties in compression, they are in agreement with previous results from other uniaxial tension tests of collagenous materials. We therefore speculate that biaxial tensile moduli may be much higher and thereby more compatible with observed nonlinear compressive properties.
Nonlinear Tensile Properties of Bovine Articular Cartilage and Their Variation With Age and Depth
Contributed by the Bioengineering Division for publication in the JOURNAL OF BIOMECHANICAL ENGINEERING. Manuscript received by the Bioengineering Division October 17, 2002; revision received October 22, 2003. Associate Editor: G. Ateshian.
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Charlebois, M., McKee, M. D., and Buschmann, M. D. (May 4, 2004). "Nonlinear Tensile Properties of Bovine Articular Cartilage and Their Variation With Age and Depth ." ASME. J Biomech Eng. April 2004; 126(2): 129–137. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.1688771
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