Walking on water: revisiting the role of water in articular cartilage biomechanics in relation to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine

Anna Angelica Cederlund, Richard Malcolm Aspden

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Abstract

The importance, and the difficulty, of generating biosynthetic articular cartilage is widely recognized. Problems arise from obtaining sufficient stiffness, toughness and longevity in the material and integration of new material into
existing cartilage and bone. Much work has been done on chondrocytes and
tissue macromolecular components while water, which comprises the bulk of
the tissue, is largely seen as a passive component; the ‘solid matrix’ is believed to be the main load-bearing element most of the time. Water is commonly seen as an inert filler whose restricted flow through the tissue is believed to be sufficient to generate the properties measured. We propose that this model should be turned on its head. Water comprises 70–80% of the matrix and has a bulk modulus considerably greater than that of cartilage. We suggest that the macromolecular components structure the water to support the loads applied. Here, we shall examine the structure and organization of the main macromolecules, collagen, aggrecan and hyaluronan, and explore how water interacts with their polyelectrolyte nature. This may inform the biosynthetic process by identifying starting points to enable developing tissue properties to guide the cells into producing the appropriate macromolecular composition and structure.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220364
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Volume19
Issue number193
Early online date3 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2022

Keywords

  • water
  • cartilage
  • collagen
  • Aggrecan
  • tissue
  • biomechanicals

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