The interaction between proteoglycan loss and collagen damage in articular cartilage and the effect of mechanical loading on this interaction remain unknown. The aim of this study was to answer the following questions: (1) Is proteoglycan loss dependent on the amount of collagen damage and does it depend on whether this collagen damage is superficial or internal? (2) Does repeated loading further increase the already enhanced proteoglycan loss in cartilage with collagen damage?
Fifty-six bovine osteochondral plugs were equilibrated in phosphate-buffered saline for 24 hours, mechanically tested in compression for 8 hours, and kept in phosphate-buffered saline for another 48 hours. The mechanical tests included an overloading step to induce collagen damage, creep steps to determine tissue stiffness, and cyclic loading to induce convection. Proteoglycan release was measured before and after mechanical loading, as well as 48 hours post-loading. Collagen damage was scored histologically.
Histology revealed different collagen damage grades after the application of mechanical overloading. After 48 hours in phosphate-buffered saline postloading, proteoglycan loss increased linearly with the amount of total collagen damage and was dependent on the presence but not the amount of internal collagen damage. In samples without collagen damage, repeated loading also resulted in increased proteoglycan loss. However, repeated loading did not further enhance the proteoglycan loss induced by damaged collagen.
Proteoglycan loss is enhanced by collagen damage and it depends on the presence of internal collagen damage. Cyclic loading stimulates proteoglycan loss in healthy cartilage but does not lead to additional loss in cartilage with damaged collagen.
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