Abstract

The objective of this paper is to provide an overall discussion of the biomechanical factors that are required to analyze and interpret data from the explant experiments and to present a description of some of the mechano-electrochemical events in the extracellular matrix (ECM) surrounding chondrocytes occurring within cartilage explants during loading. Five common loading cases of cartilage explants are discussed: hydrostatic pressure, osmotic pressure, permeation, confined compression and unconfined compression. Details of such surface loadings on the internal ECM pressure, fluid and ion flows, deformation and electrical fields are given. Similarities and differences in these quantities due to these five types of loadings are specifically noted. For example, it is noted that there is no practical mechanical loading condition that can be achieved in the laboratory to produce effects that are equal to the effects of osmotic pressure loading within the ECM. Some counter-intuitive effects from these loadings are also described. Further, the significance of flow induced compression of the ECM is emphasized, since this frictional drag effect is likely to be one of the major effects of fluid flow through the porous-permeable ECM. Associated streaming potential and diffusion potential and their dependence on the fixed charge density, are discussed in relation to the fluid flow through the charged ECM and the flow-induced compaction effect. Understanding of the differences among these explant loading cases is important; this can provide clearer understanding of the metabolic responses from chondrocytes in explant loading experiments.

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