Experimental studies on immature tendons have shown that the collagen fibril net is discontinuous. Manifold evidences, despite not being conclusive, indicate that mature tissue is discontinuous as well. According to composite theory, there is no requirement that the fibrils should extend from one end of the tissue to the other; indeed, an interfibrillar matrix with a low elastic modulus would be sufficient to guarantee the mechanical properties of the tendon. Possible mechanisms for the stress-transfer involve the interfibrillar proteoglycans and can be related to the matrix shear stress and to electrostatic non-covalent forces. Recent studies have shown that the glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) bound to decorin act like bridges between contiguous fibrils connecting adjacent fibril every 64-68nm; this architecture would suggest their possible role in providing the mechanical integrity of the tendon structure. The present paper investigates the ability of decorin GAGs to transfer forces between adjacent fibrils. In order to test this hypothesis the stiffness of chondroitin-6-sulphate, a typical GAG associated to decorin, has been evaluated through the molecular mechanics approach. The obtained GAG stiffness is piecewise linear with an initial plateau at low strains (-11N/nm) afterwards. By introducing the calculated GAG stiffness in a multi-fibril model, miming the relative mature tendon architecture, the stress-strain behaviour of the collagen fibre was determined. The fibre incremental elastic modulus obtained ranges between 100 and 475MPa for strains between 2% and 6%. The elastic modulus value depends directly on the fibril length, diameter and inversely on the interfibrillar distance. In particular, according to the obtained results, the length of the fibril is likely to play the major role in determining stiffness in mature tendons.
- Molecular mechanics
- Tendon mechanical behaviour
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine