Recently a cartilage growth finite element model (CGFEM) was developed to solve nonhomogeneous and time-dependent growth boundary-value problems (Davol et al., 2008, “A Nonlinear Finite Element Model of Cartilage Growth,” Biomech. Model. Mechanobiol., 7, pp. 295–307). The CGFEM allows distinct stress constitutive equations and growth laws for the major components of the solid matrix, collagens and proteoglycans. The objective of the current work was to simulate in vitro growth of articular cartilage explants in a steady-state permeation bioreactor in order to obtain results that aid experimental design. The steady-state permeation protocol induces different types of mechanical stimuli. When the specimen is initially homogeneous, it directly induces homogeneous permeation velocities and indirectly induces nonhomogeneous solid matrix shear stresses; consequently, the steady-state permeation protocol is a good candidate for exploring two competing hypotheses for the growth laws. The analysis protocols were implemented through the alternating interaction of the two CGFEM components: poroelastic finite element analysis (FEA) using ABAQUS and a finite element growth routine using MATLAB. The CGFEM simulated 12 days of growth for immature bovine articular cartilage explants subjected to two competing hypotheses for the growth laws: one that is triggered by permeation velocity and the other by maximum shear stress. The results provide predictions for geometric, biomechanical, and biochemical parameters of grown tissue specimens that may be experimentally measured and, consequently, suggest key biomechanical measures to analyze as pilot experiments are performed. The combined approach of CGFEM analysis and pilot experiments may lead to the refinement of actual experimental protocols and a better understanding of in vitro growth of articular cartilage.


Biomechanical Engineering

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