Background: Injurious mechanical loading of articular cartilage can be an initiating factor in the development of degenerative joint disease. The tissue response to compression depends on the loading conditions and matrix mechanical properties. The short-term loading history of cartilage can affect its water content and microstructural organization, and may thereby modify its susceptibility to injury. We therefore examined the role of prestrain on the response of articular cartilage to injurious compression. Methods: The full-thickness cartilage of bovine osteochondral explants was subjected to prestrains of 0, 5, 10, 25 or 50% before application of injurious ramp compression characterized by a strain rate of 7 × 10-2 or 7 × 10-3 s-1 and peak stress of 3.5 or 14 MPa. Effects of prestrain were evaluated in terms of fluid exudation, tissue mechanical stiffening, and the tissue response to injurious compression as characterized by macroscopic crack formation, cell viability and glycosaminoglycan release to culture media. Results: Macroscopic crack formation due to injurious compression decreased with increasing prestrain in association with lower cell mortality. Significantly decreased susceptibility to injury was already evident for 10% prestrain. In contrast, explant mechanical stiffness was unchanged up to 25% prestrain. Conclusion: Findings demonstrate that compressive strains due to the short-term loading history of cartilage may strongly reduce its susceptibility to mechanical injury. Conversely, matrix swelling may render cartilage more vulnerable to injury. The cartilage response to injurious compression is therefore strongly influenced by matrix fluid content, and possibly also by other structural parameters such as collagen fiber orientation. © 2005 OsteoArthritis Research Society International. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Morel, V., Merçay, A., & Quinn, T. M. (2005). Prestrain decreases cartilage susceptibility to injury by ramp compression in vitro. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 13(11), 964–970. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joca.2005.06.016