The Collagen Framework of Articular Cartilage: its Profound Influence on Normal and Abnormal Loadbearing Function
The primary role of articular cartilage is to facilitate the efficient transmission of mechanical stress across the articulating joint. This chapter presents a critical re-evaluation of the generally accepted biomechanical concepts for cartilage in the light of several new ideas arising from recent experiments. The material presented deals principally with the structural architecture of the intercellular areas of the general matrix, leaving aside the highly specialized pericellular lacunar regions. It is appropriate to comment briefly on the relationship between aging and the response of the general matrix to stress. The differences in the modes of radial and transverse notch propagation are also entirely consistent with the structural model. The chapter attempts to clarify some of the important principles governing the load-bearing function of normal articular cartilage. It shows that the collagenous fibrillar architecture of the general matrix, although overtly variable in appearance, does possess a unique structural form.