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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Functional anatomy of articular cartilage under compressive loading Quantitative aspects of global, local and zonal reactions of the collagenous network with respect to the surface integrity.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the influence of local compressive loading on the arrangement of the collagenous fibers in intact articular cartilage. To quantitate the zonal deformation of intact cartilage under load. To analyse the influence of removal of the tangential zone on the load-induced changes. MATERIALS AND METHODS: 380 cylinder shaped cartilage-on-bone samples (d=7 mm) were harvested from 20 bovine femoral heads. In 120 of them the tangential zone was removed. All samples were loaded for 20 min by 0.42 MPa or 0.98 MPa. After proteoglycan extraction, fixation in 4% formalin, dehydration by increasing concentrations of acetone, critical point drying, freeze-fracturing and gold-coating the samples were analysed by scanning-electron-microscopy. RESULTS: Fiber bulging away from the center of load occurred in an area larger than the directly loaded one and its extent increased parallel to loading (P< 0.01). Crimp was seen only under the indenter and spread with increasing load from the intermediate zone into the tangential zone and radial zone. The absolute height of tangential zone and intermediate zone together remained constant under all loading situations at the costs of the radial zone. All changes due to loading were fully reversible. Removal of the tangential zone reduced the area of bulging (P< 0.01) but markedly increased the amount of crimp. Overall radial strain was not altered, but overall superficial tangential strain was increased by up to 20% (P< 0.01) and high peaks in the local distribution of superficial tensile strain developed. CONCLUSIONS: The collagenous architecture is a dynamic property of the articular cartilage adapting to its respective loading situation. Crimp reflects local compressive strain. Under compressive loading larger portions of cartilage than the directly loaded areas are functionally included in the process of load transmission. During this process the tangential zone and the intermediate zone form a common functional unit providing a high degree of fiber cross-linkage as a possible mechanism to increase zonal compressive stiffness. Removal of the tangential zone seems to impair distribution of a locally applied compressive load sideways and leads to a reduced cartilage volume included in the process of load transmission. An intact tangential zone contributes to prevent peaks of surface tensile strain.[1]


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