The objective of this study was to determine the intrinsic hydraulic permeability of 2% agarose hydrogels. Two-percent agarose was chosen because it is a concentration typically used for encapsulation of chondrocytes in suspension cultures [3–5], Hydraulic permeability is a measure of the relative ease by which fluid can pass through a material. Importantly, it governs the level of interstitial fluid flow as well as the interstitial fluid pressurization that is generated in a material during loading. Fluid pressurization is the source of the unique load-bearing and lubrication properties of articular cartilage [1,17] and represents a major component of the in vivo chondrocyte environment. We have previously reported that 2% agarose hydrogels can support fluid pressurization, albeit to a significantly lesser degree than articular cartilage [18]. Interstitial fluid flow gives rise to convective transport of nutrients and ions [6,7] and matrix compaction [9] which may serve as important stimuli to chondrocytes. We report for the first time the strain-dependent hydraulic permeability of 2% agarose hydrogels.

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