Effect of Mechanical Load on Articular Cartilage Collagen Structure: A Scanning Electron-Microscopic Study, 2000

Topics: Morphology; Loading, mechanical; Collagen fibers; Scanning electron microscopy; Cryofixation; Freeze
substitution, Rabbit

Authors: Max J. Kääb, Keita Ito, Berton Rahn, John M. Clark, Hubert P. Nötzli


Little is known about the morphological effect of a mechanical load upon articular cartilage. The objective of this study was to describe and quantify the deformation of the articular cartilage collagen structure of the tibial plateau under static loading. Whole intact rabbit knee joints were loaded in vitro by simulating a quadriceps force of 3!, 1! or 0.5! body weight (high, medium, low) over durations of 30 or 5 min (long, short). Specimens were cryopreserved while under load and prepared for morphological evaluation by field emission scanning electron microscopy. Under high force and long duration loading the collagen fibers exhibited high deformation with an increased thickness of the layer of collagen fibers oriented almost parallel to the surface and a cartilage thickness reduced to 54%. Collagen fiber deformation occurred mostly in the transitional and upper radial zone. The area of tibial indentation and the cartilage thickness reduction increased with magnitude and duration of load. The collagen matrix did show a bulging edge at the border of the meniscus and exhibited remarkable deformation under the meniscus.

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