The flow-independent (intrinsic) tensile modulus of the extracellular matrix of human knee joint cartilage has been measured for normal, fibrillated, and osteoarthritic (removed from total knee joint replacements) cartilage. The modulus was determined in our isometric tensile apparatus and measured at equilibrium. We found a linear equilibrium stress-strain behavior up to ∼15% strain. The modulus was measured for tissues from the high and low weight-bearing areas of the joint surfaces, the medial femoral condyle and lateral patello femoral groove, and from different zones (surface, subsurface, middle, and middle-deep) within the tissue. For all specimens, the intrinsic tensile modulus was always less than 30 MPa. Tissues from low weight-bearing areas (LWA) are stiffer than those from high weight-bearing areas (HWA). The tensile modulus of the ECM correlates strongly with the collagen/proteoglycan ratio; it is higher for LWA than for HWA. Osteoarthritic cartilage from total knee replacement procedures has a tensile stiffness less than 2 MPa.
Intrinsic tensile modulus; High and low weight bearing areas; Normal, fibrillated, and osteoarthritic cartilage; Ion concentration affects; Correlation with biochemical composition