Few methods exist to study cartilage mechanics in small animal joints due to the difficulties associated with handling small tissue samples. In this study, we apply an osmotic loading method to quantify the intrinsic material properties of articular cartilage in small animal joints. Cartilage samples were studied from the femoral condyle and tibial plateau of two-month old guinea pigs. Swelling strains were measured using confocal fluorescence scanning microscopy in samples subjected to osmotic loading. A histochemical staining method was developed and calibrated for quantification of negative fixed charge density in guinea pig cartilage. Site-matched swelling strain data and fixed charge density values were then used with a triphasic theoretical model for cartilage swelling to determine the uniaxial modulus of the cartilage solid matrix. Moduli obtained in this study (7.2MPa femoral condyle; 10.8MPa, tibial plateau) compare well with previously reported values for the tensile moduli of human and other animal cartilages determined from uniaxial tension experiments. This study provides the first available data for material properties and fixed charge density in cartilage from the guinea pig knee and suggests a promising method for tracking changes in cartilage mechanics in small animal models of degeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1285-1290
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2002


  • Articular cartilage
  • Guinea pig
  • Mechanical properties
  • Osmotic loading
  • Swelling


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