Author(s): Kempson GE
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Abstract Specimens of articular cartilage from the superficial and mid-depth zones of the human femoral head and the talus of the ankle joint were tested in tension in planes parallel to the articular surface and parallel to the predominant orientation of the superficial collagen fibrils. The tensile fracture stress of cartilage from both the superficial and mid-depth zones of the femoral head decreased considerably with age. The superficial zone decreased from 33 MPa at 7 years to 10 MPa by the age of 90 years, while the mid-depth zone decreased from 32 MPa at 7 years to 2 MPa by the age of 85 years. In contrast the fracture stress of both levels of cartilage from the talus of the ankle did not decrease significantly with increasing age. The tensile stiffness at 10 MPa of both the superficial and mid-depth zones of the femoral head decreased with age. That of the superficial zone decreased from 150 MPa at 7 years to 80 MPa at 90 years, while the mid-depth zone decreased from 60 MPa at 7 years to 10 MPa at 60 years. The stiffness of talar cartilage from the superficial zone decreased by 20\%, while that of the mid-depth zone showed a slight increase in stiffness at 10 MPa with increasing age. There was no significant decrease in the tensile stiffness at 1 MPa with age for either the femoral head or talar cartilage. Based on the results of previous studies it is possible to conclude that the decrease in tensile properties seen in the femoral head results from a deterioration in the tensile properties of the network of collagen fibrils. It is suggested that progressive fatigue failure, perhaps with associated changes in the structure of cartilage due to altered chondrocyte metabolism, causes the reduction in tensile properties with age. The results offer a potential explanation for the observation that osteoarthritis commonly occurs in the hip and knee joints at an increasing incidence as age increases, while the condition only rarely occurs in the ankle joint except as a secondary event to trauma.
This article was published in Biochim Biophys Acta
and referenced in Journal of Tissue Science & Engineering