Open Access Research article

Immature articular cartilage and subchondral bone covered by menisci are potentially susceptive to mechanical load

Hirotaka Iijima1, Tomoki Aoyama2, Akira Ito1, Junichi Tajino1, Momoko Nagai1, Xiangkai Zhang1, Shoki Yamaguchi1, Haruhiko Akiyama3 and Hiroshi Kuroki1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Motor Function Analysis, Human Health Sciences, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, 53 Shogoin, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan

2 Department of Development and Rehabilitation of Motor Function, Human Health Sciences, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

3 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-101

Published: 26 March 2014



The differences of mechanical and histological properties between cartilage covered by menisci and uncovered by menisci may contribute to the osteoarthritis after meniscectomy and these differences are not fully understood. The purpose of this study is to investigate potential differences in the mechanical and histological properties, and in particular the collagen architecture, of the superficial cartilage layer and subchondral bone between regions covered and uncovered by menisci using immature knee.


Osteochondral plugs were obtained from porcine tibial cartilage that was either covered or uncovered by menisci. Investigation of the thickness, mechanical properties, histology, and water content of the cartilage as well as micro-computed tomography analysis of the subchondral bone was performed to compare these regions. Collagen architecture was also assessed by using scanning electron microscopy.


Compared to the cartilage uncovered by menisci, that covered by menisci was thinner and showed a higher deformity to compression loading and higher water content. In the superficial layer of cartilage in the uncovered regions, collagen fibers showed high density, whereas they showed low density in covered regions. Furthermore, subchondral bone architecture varied between the 2 regions, and showed low bone density in covered regions.


Cartilage covered by menisci differed from that uncovered in both its mechanical and histological properties, especially with regards to the density of the superficial collagen layer. These regional differences may be related to local mechanical environment in normal condition and indicate that cartilage covered by menisci is tightly guarded by menisci from extreme mechanical loading. Our results indicate that immature cartilage degeneration and subchondral microfracture may occur easily to extreme direct mechanical loading in covered region after meniscectomy.

Articular cartilage; Uncovered region; Covered region; Superficial layer; Subchondral bone architecture