We measured the in situ biomechanical properties of knee joint cartilage from five species (bovine, canine, human, monkey, and rabbit) to examine the biomechanical relevance of animal models of human knee joint injuries and osteoarthritis. In situ biphasic creep indentation experiments were performed to simultaneously determine all three intrinsic material coefficients (aggregate modulus, Poisson's ratio, and permeability) of the cartilage as represented by the linear KLM biphasic model. In addition, we also assessed the effects of load bearing on these intrinsic properties at “high” and “low” weight-bearing regions on the distal femur. Our results indicate that significant differences exist in some of these material properties among species and sites. The aggregate modulus of the anterior patellar groove within each species is the lowest among all sites tested, and the permeability of the patellar groove cartilage is the highest and does not vary among species. Similarly, the Poisson's ratio in the patellar groove is the lowest in all species, except in the rabbit. These results lead to the conclusion that patellar groove cartilage can undergo greater and faster compression. Thus, under high compressive loads, the cartilage of the patellar groove surface can more rapidly compress to create a congruent patellofemoral joint articulation. For any given location, no differences were found in the aggregate modulus among all the species, and no correlation was found between aggregate modulus and thickness at the test site. Thus, in the process of selecting a suitable experimental animal model of human articular cartilage, it is essential to consider the significant interspecies differences of the mechanical properties.
Biomechanical properties; Interspecies comparisons; Knee cartilage; KLM biphasic theory; Creep indentation