The role of subchondral bone, and its histomorphology, on the dynamic viscoelasticity of cartilage, bone and osteochondral cores

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

External organisations

  • University of Birmingham
  • University Hospital Birmingham


Objective: Viscoelastic properties of articular cartilage have been characterised at physiological frequencies. However, studies investigating the interaction between cartilage and subchondral bone and the influence of underlying bone histomorphometry on the viscoelasticity of cartilage are lacking.

Method: Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) has been used to quantify the dynamic viscoelasticity of bovine tibial plateau osteochondral cores, over a frequency sweep from 1 to 88 Hz. Specimens (approximately aged between 18 and 30 months) were neither osteoarthritic nor otherwise compromised. A maximum nominal stress of 1.7 MPa was induced. Viscoelastic properties of cores have been compared with that of its components (cartilage and bone) in terms of the elastic and viscous components of both structural stiffness and material modulus. Micro-computed tomography scans were used to quantify the histomorphological properties of the subchondral bone.

Results: Opposing frequency-dependent loss stiffness, and modulus, trends were witnessed for osteochondral tissues: for cartilage it increased logarithmically (P < 0.05); for bone it decreased logarithmically (P < 0.05). The storage stiffness of osteochondral cores was logarithmically frequency-dependent (P < 0.05), however, the loss stiffness was typically frequency-independent (P > 0.05). A linear relationship between the subchondral bone plate (SBP) thickness and cartilage thickness (P < 0.001) was identified. Cartilage loss modulus was linearly correlated to bone mineral density (BMD) (P < 0.05) and bone volume (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: The relationship between the subchondral bone histomorphometry and cartilage viscoelasticity (namely loss modulus) and thickness, have implications for the initiation and progression of osteoarthritis (OA) through an altered ability of cartilage to dissipate energy.


Original languageEnglish
JournalOsteoarthritis and Cartilage
Early online date18 Dec 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Dec 2018


  • Cartilage, Histomorphometry, Knee, Subchondral bone, Viscoelasticity