A composites theory predicts the dependence of stiffness of cartilage culture tissues on collagen volume fraction

N. K. Simha, M. Fedewa, P. H. Leo, J. L. Lewis, T. Oegema

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21 Scopus citations


The tensile stiffness of tissue grown from chondrocyte culture was both measured experimentally and predicted using a composites model theory relating tissue microstructure to macroscopic material stiffness. The tissue was altered by several treatment protocols to provide a wide range of collagen fibril volume fraction (0.015-0.15). The rate of change of tissue modulus with change in collagen volume fraction predicted by the theory was within 14% of the slope of the linear fit through the experimental data, without the use of fitting parameters for the theoretical value of the slope. Use of the model to simulate cytokine mediated tissue digestion suggests that the action of IL-1β and retinoic acid is mainly removal of proteoglycans and some removal of collagen. The model also indicates that the matrix and collagen remaining in the tissue has the same elastic properties as the untreated tissue, and is not damaged due to the alteration. Young's modulus of the collagen fibrils is predicted to be 120 MPa, a value in the range of previous studies. This value is dependent mainly on the matrix modulus and collagen fibril volume fraction and not on Poisson's ratio of either matrix or fibril. Poisson's ratio of the tissue depends primarily on the ratio of the matrix.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-509
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported in part by the Center for Interfacial Engineering at the University of Minnesota (NKS, PHL, JLL) and by NSF/CMS 9457573 (NKS). The paper draws on research performed when NKS was a Research Associate at the University of Minnesota and a Research Fellow at the California Institute of Technology.


  • Articular cartilage
  • Cartilage modulus
  • Culture tissue
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Theoretical composites model


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