Abstract

The biosynthetic activities of chondrocytes are regulated by the mechanical and electrochemical (MEC) environments around cells in the extracellular matrix (ECM) such as matrix deformation, stress/strain, fluid and osmotic pressures and electrical potential [e.g., 1–3]. These MEC parameters are the signals that chondrocytes sense and respond to under mechanical or chemical loading. Therefore, detailed quantification of these MEC signals is a key step toward the understanding the mechano-signal transduction mechanism in cartilage. Since microscopic measurements of MEC environments around cells is generally not possible experimentally, theoretical cell-ECM interaction models have attracted research interests in efforts to predict the MEC fields around and within the chondrocytes encased in the ECM [e.g., 4–6]. These models show that during mechanical compression the responses of the chondrocytes and ECM are intrinsically coupled, influenced by their material properties, and are strongly time and depth dependent [4–6]. For example, the chondrocytes and ECM at the surface zone of the articular cartilage undergo significantly larger axial compression, shear, osmotic pressure and electrical potential than those at the deeper zones [5,6].

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