Surface damage of bovine articular cartilage-off-bone: the effect of variations in underlying substrate and frequency

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BACKGROUND: Changes in bone mineral density have been implicated with the onset of osteoarthritis, but its role in inducing failure of articular cartilage mechanically is unclear. This study aimed to determine the effect of substrate density, as the underlying bone, on the surface damage of cartilage-off-bone, at frequencies associated with gait, and above.

METHODS: Bovine articular cartilage samples were tested off-bone to assess induced damage with an indenter under a compressive sinusoidal load range of 5-50 N at frequencies of 1, 10 and 50 Hz, corresponding to normal and above normal gait respectively, for up to 10,000 cycles. Cartilage samples were tested on four underlying substrates with densities of 0.1556, 0.3222, 0.5667 and 0.6000 g/cm3. India ink was applied to identify damage as cracks, measured across their length using ImageJ software. Linear regression was performed to identify if statistical significance existed between substrate density, and surface damage of articular cartilage-off-bone, at all three frequencies investigated (p < 0.05).

RESULTS: Surface damage significantly increased (p < 0.05) with substrate density at 10 Hz of applied frequency. Crack length at this frequency reached the maximum of 10.95 ± 9.12 mm (mean ± standard deviation), across all four substrates tested. Frequencies applied at 1 and 50 Hz failed to show a significant increase (p > 0.05) in surface damage with an increase in substrate density, at which the maximum mean crack length were 3.01 ± 3.41 mm and 5.65 ± 6.54 mm, respectively. Crack formation at all frequencies tended to form at the periphery of the cartilage specimen, with multiple straight-line cracking observed at 10 Hz, in comparison to single straight-line configurations produced at 1 and 50 Hz.

CONCLUSIONS: The effect of substrate density on the surface damage of articular cartilage-off-bone is multi-factorial, with an above-normal gait frequency. At 1 Hz cartilage damage is not associated with substrate density, however at 10 Hz, it is. This study has implications on the effects of the factors that contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number384
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2018


  • Articular cartilage
  • bone mineral density
  • damage
  • frequency
  • mechanical loading
  • osteoarthritis


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