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Articular cartilage exhibits complex mechano-electrochemical behaviour due to its anisotropy, inhomogeneity and material non-linearity. In this work, the thickness and radial dependence of cartilage properties are incorporated into a 3D mechano-electrochemical model to explore the relevance of heterogeneity in the behaviour of the tissue. The model considers four essential phenomena: (i) osmotic pressure, (ii) convective and diffusive processes, (iii) chemical expansion and (iv) three-dimensional through-the-thickness heterogeneity of the tissue. The need to consider heterogeneity in computational simulations of cartilage behaviour and in manufacturing biomaterials mimicking this tissue is discussed. To this end, healthy tibial plateaus from pigs were mechanically and biochemically tested in-vitro. Heterogeneous properties were included in the mechano-electrochemical computational model to simulate tissue swelling. The simulation results demonstrated that swelling of the heterogeneous samples was significantly lower than swelling under homogeneous and isotropic conditions. Furthermore, there was a significant reduction in the flux of water and ions in the former samples. In conclusion, the computational model presented here can be considered as a valuable tool for predicting how the variation of cartilage properties affects its behaviour, opening up possibilities for exploring the requirements of cartilage-mimicking biomaterials for tissue engineering. Besides, the model also allows the establishment of behavioural patterns of swelling and of water and ion fluxes in articular cartilage.

Original publication




Journal article


Plos one

Publication Date





Animals, Cartilage, Articular, Cations, Elastic Modulus, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, Joints, Models, Theoretical, Numerical Analysis, Computer-Assisted, Permeability, Sus scrofa, Tibia