Determination of the Depth- and Time- Dependent Mechanical Behavior of Mouse Articular Cartilage Using Cyclic Reference Point Indentation

Andrew Chang, Simon Y. Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Mouse models of osteoarthritis and cartilage degeneration are important and powerful tools for investigating the molecular mechanisms of the disease pathology. Because of the vast number of genetically modified mouse models that are available for research, the ability to use these models is particularly attractive for the mechanobiologic interactions in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. However, the very small scale of mouse articular cartilage, where the healthy tissue is only 80 µm in thickness, poses challenges in quantifying mechanical characteristics of the tissue. We introduce here a novel approach that combines experimental and analytical methods to quantify the nuanced mechanical changes during cartilage degeneration at this scale. Cyclic reference point indentation is used to directly test the murine articular cartilage to obtain the force-deformation and the phase-shift characteristics of the tissue. The cartilage zonal thicknesses are confirmed from histology. These data are then fitted to a parallel spring model to determine the depth-dependent tissue stiffness and modulus. Using this approach, we investigated the effects of trypsin degradation on the zonal mechanical behavior of mouse articular cartilage. We observe a decline of the superficial zone stiffness coupled with the loss of the superficial layer. Subsequent degradation by trypsin allowed the identification of middle- and deep- zone properties. Taken together, this approach can be a useful tool for understanding the disease mechanisms of cartilage homeostasis and degeneration, and for monitoring of therapies for osteoarthritis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-363
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • articular cartilage
  • mouse model
  • reference point indentation
  • trypsin


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