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The Role of Proteoglycans in the Viscoelastic Behaviour of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament

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Document pages: 55 pages

Abstract: The contribution of proteoglycans (PGs) to the viscoelasticity of soft tissues such as ligaments is highly debated in current literature. To date, there is limited information on the mechanical role of PGs to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee joint which is both highly susceptible to injuries and contains higher PGs content compared to the collateral ligaments. This is the first study to collectively investigate the contribution of PGs to key viscoelastic characteristics (strain-rate dependency, recovery, hysteresis, creep and stress-relaxation) in the knee joint femur-ACL-tibia complex. Femur-ACL-tibia complexes (n=6 pairs) were harvested from disease-free canine knee joints and categorised into control and PGs-reduced groups. Specimens were preconditioned and cyclically loaded to 9.9 N at 0.1, 1 and 10 min strain-rates followed by creep and stress-relaxation tests. Low tensile loads were applied to focus on the toe-region of the stress-strain curves where the non-collagenous extracellular matrix components are believed to take effect. Subsequently biochemical assays were performed on the ACLs to determine PGs and water content. Reduced PGs content in the ACLs significantly increased stress-relaxation (p<0.05) while it significantly decreased recovery (p< 0.01) and creep (p< 0.05). However, PGs had no effect on the stress-strain behaviour and hysteresis of the ACLs. The current study shows that altering PGs content can lead to changes in ACL viscoelasticity, which may predispose to injury and eventually leading to knee joint osteoarthritis.

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