The effect of fixed charge density and cartilage swelling on mechanics of knee joint cartilage during simulated gait

Lasse P. Räsänen, Petri Tanska, Štefan Zbýň, Corrinus C. van Donkelaar, Siegfried Trattnig, Miika T. Nieminen, Rami K. Korhonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The effect of swelling of articular cartilage, caused by the fixed charge density (FCD) of proteoglycans, has not been demonstrated on knee joint mechanics during simulated walking before. In this study, the influence of the depth-wise variation of FCD was investigated on the internal collagen fibril strains and the mechanical response of the knee joint cartilage during gait using finite element (FE) analysis. The FCD distribution of tibial cartilage was implemented from sodium (23Na) MRI into a 3-D FE-model of the knee joint (“Healthy model”). For comparison, models with decreased FCD values were created according to the decrease in FCD associated with the progression of osteoarthritis (OA) (“Early OA” and “Advanced OA” models). In addition, a model without FCD was created (“No FCD” model). The effect of FCD was studied with five different collagen fibril network moduli of cartilage. Using the reference fibril network moduli, the decrease in FCD from “Healthy model” to “Early OA” and “Advanced OA” models resulted in increased axial strains (by +2 and +6%) and decreased fibril strains (by −3 and −13%) throughout the stance, respectively, calculated as mean values through cartilage depth in the tibiofemoral contact regions. Correspondingly, compared to the “Healthy model”, the removal of the FCD altogether in “NoFCD model” resulted in increased mean axial strains by +16% and decreased mean fibril strains by −24%. This effect was amplified as the fibril network moduli were decreased by 80% from the reference. Then mean axial strains increased by +6, +19 and +49% and mean fibril strains decreased by −9, −20 and −32%, respectively. Our results suggest that the FCD in articular cartilage has influence on cartilage responses in the knee during walking. Furthermore, the FCD is suggested to have larger impact on cartilage function as the collagen network degenerates e.g. in OA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-44
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Aug 16 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme ( FP/2007-2013 )/ ERC Grant Agreement no. 281180 , Academy of Finland (project #138574 , #260321 , #286526 , #305138 ), Sigrid Juselius foundation , Finnish Cultural Foundation North Savo regional fund (grant 65142194 ) and Kuopio University Hospital (VTR grant 5041752 ) are acknowledged for financial support. CSC – IT Center for Science Ltd is acknowledged for the computational capacity and technical support.


  • Articular cartilage
  • Finite element analysis
  • Fixed charge density
  • Gait
  • Knee joint
  • Proteoglycans
  • Swelling

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