Chondrocyte deformation under extreme tissue strain in two regions of the rabbit knee joint.

Journal of biomechanics

PubMedID: 23089458

Madden R, Han SK, Herzog W. Chondrocyte deformation under extreme tissue strain in two regions of the rabbit knee joint. J Biomech. 2013;46(3):554-60.
Articular cartilage and its native cells-chondrocytes-are exposed to a wide range of mechanical loading. Chondrocytes are responsible for maintaining the cartilage matrix, yet relatively little is known regarding their behavior under a complete range of mechanical loads or how cell mechanics are affected by region within the joint. The purpose of this study was to investigate chondrocyte deformations in situ under tissue loads ranging from physiological to extreme (0-80% nominal strain) in two regions of the rabbit knee joint (femoral condyles and patellae). Local matrix strains and cell compressive strains increased with increasing loads. At low loads the extracellular matrix (ECM) strains in the superficial zone were greater than the applied tissue strains, while at extreme loads, the local ECM strains were smaller than the applied strains. Cell compressive strains were always smaller than the applied tissue strains and, in our intact, in situ preparation, were substantially smaller than those previously found in hemi-cylindrical explants. This resulted in markedly different steady-state cell volume changes in the current study compared to those working with cartilage explants. Additionally, cells from different regions in the knee exhibited striking differences in deformation behavior under load. The current results suggest: (i) that the local extracellular and pericellular matrix environment is intimately linked to chondrocyte mechanobiology, protecting chondrocytes from potentially damaging strains at high tissue loads; and (ii) that cell mechanics are a function of applied load and local cartilage tissue structure.