Contribution of postnatal collagen reorientation to depth-dependent mechanical properties of articular cartilage

M.C. van Turnhout, S. Kranenbarg, J.L. van Leeuwen

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23 Citations (Scopus)


The collagen fibril network is an important factor for the depth-dependent mechanical behaviour of adult articular cartilage (AC). Recent studies show that collagen orientation is parallel to the articular surface throughout the tissue depth in perinatal animals, and that the collagen orientations transform to a depth-dependent arcade-like structure in adult animals. Current understanding on the mechanobiology of postnatal AC development is incomplete. In the current paper, we investigate the contribution of collagen fibril orientation changes to the depth-dependent mechanical properties of AC. We use a composition-based finite element model to simulate in a 1-D confined compression geometry the effects of ten different collagen orientation patterns that were measured in developing sheep. In initial postnatal life, AC is mostly subject to growth and we observe only small changes in depth-dependent mechanical behaviour. Functional adaptation of depth-dependent mechanical behaviour of AC takes place in the second half of life before puberty. Changes in fibril orientation alone increase cartilage stiffness during development through the modulation of swelling strains and osmotic pressures. Changes in stiffness are most pronounced for small stresses and for cartilage adjacent to the bone. We hypothesize that postnatal changes in collagen fibril orientation induce mechanical effects that in turn promote these changes. We further hypothesize that a part of the depth-dependent postnatal increase in collagen content in literature is initiated by the depth-dependent postnatal increase in fibril strain due to collagen fibril reorientation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-279
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • reinforced finite-element
  • femoral-head cartilage
  • local tissue strain
  • unconfined compression
  • confined compression
  • stress-relaxation
  • swelling pressure
  • sub-populations
  • model
  • chondrocytes


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