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Mechanical properties of normal and osteoarthritic human articular cartilage.


Isotropic hyperelastic models have been used to determine the material properties of normal human cartilage, but there remains an incomplete understanding of how these properties may be altered by osteoarthritis. The aims of this study were to (1) measure the material constants of normal and osteoarthritic human knee cartilage using isotropic hyperelastic models; (2) determine whether the material constants correlate with histological measures of structure and/or cartilage tissue damage; and (3) quantify the abilities of two common isotropic hyperelastic material models, the neo-Hookean and Yeoh models, to describe articular cartilage contact force, area, and pressure. Small osteochondral specimens of normal and osteoarthritic condition were retrieved from human cadaveric knees and from the knees of patients undergoing total knee arthroplasty and tested in unconfined compression at loading rates and large strains representative of weight-bearing activity. Articular surface contact area and lateral deformation were measured concurrently and specimen-specific finite element models then were used to determine the hyperelastic material constants. Structural parameters were measured using histological techniques while the severity of cartilage damage was quantified using the OARSI grading scale. The hyperelastic material constants correlated significantly with OARSI grade, indicating that the mechanical properties of cartilage for large strains change with tissue damage. The measurements of contact area described anisotropy of the tissue constituting the superficial zone. The Yeoh model described contact force and pressure more accurately than the neo-Hookean model, whereas both models under-predicted contact area and poorly described the anisotropy of cartilage within the superficial zone. These results identify the limits by which isotropic hyperelastic material models may be used to describe cartilage contact variables. This study provides novel data for the mechanical properties of normal and osteoarthritic human articular cartilage and enhances our ability to model this tissue using simple isotropic hyperelastic materials.