Tensile and compressive properties of healthy and osteoarthritic human articular cartilage

Federica Boschetti, Giuseppe M. Peretti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease affecting articular cartilage and the underlying bone, resulting from many biological and mechanical interacting factors which change the extracellular matrix (ECM) and cells and lead to increasing levels of cartilage degeneration, like softening, fibrillation, ulceration and cartilage loss. The early diagnosis of the disease is fundamental to prevent pain, further tissue degeneration and reduce hospital costs. Although morphological modifications can be detected by modern non-invasive diagnostic techniques, they may not be evident in the early stages of OA. The mechanical properties of articular cartilage are related to its composition and structure and are sensitive to even small changes in the ECM that could occur in early OA. The aim of the present study was to compare the mechanical properties of healthy and OA cartilage using a combined experimental-numerical approach. Experimental assessments consisted of step wise confined and unconfined compression and tension stress relaxation tests on disks (for compression) or strips (for tension) of cartilage obtained from human femoral heads discarded from the operating room after total hip replacement. The numerical model was based on the biphasic theory and included the tension-compression non-linearity. Considering OA samples vs normal samples, the static compressive modulus was 55-68% lower, the permeability was 60-80% higher, the dynamic compressive modulus was 59-64% lower, the static tension modulus was 72-83% lower. The model successfully simulated the experimental tests performed on healthy and OA cartilage and was used in combination with the experimental tests to evaluate the role of different ECM components in the mechanical response of normal and OA cartilage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-344
Number of pages8
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2008



  • Articular cartilage
  • Biomechanical tests
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Poroelastic modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology

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