DOI: 10.1177/19476035231214724 ISSN: 1947-6035

Characterization of the Age-Related Differences in Porcine Acetabulum and Femoral Head Articular Cartilage

Nathan P. Fackler, Ryan P. Donahue, Benjamin J. Bielajew, Arya Amirhekmat, Jerry C. Hu, Kyriacos A. Athanasiou, Dean Wang
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Immunology and Allergy


The use of porcine animal models for cartilage injury has increased recently due to their similarity with humans with regard to cartilage thickness, limited intrinsic healing of chondral defects, and joint loading biomechanics. However, variations in the mechanical and biochemical properties of porcine hip articular cartilage among various tissue ages and weightbearing (WB) regions are still unknown. This study’s aim was to characterize the mechanical and biochemical properties of porcine hip articular cartilage across various ages and WB regions.


Articular cartilage explants were harvested from WB and non-weightbearing (NWB) surfaces of the femoral head and acetabulum of domesticated pigs ( Sus scrofa domesticus) at fetal (gestational age: 80 days), juvenile (6 months), and adult (2 years) ages. Explants underwent compressive stress-relaxation mechanical testing, biochemical analysis for total collagen and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content, and histological staining.


Juvenile animals consistently had the highest mechanical properties, with 2.2- to 7.6-time increases in relaxation modulus, 1.3- to 2.3-time increases in instantaneous modulus, and 4.1- to 14.2-time increases in viscosity compared with fetal cartilage. Mechanical properties did not significantly differ between the WB and NWB regions. Collagen content was highest in the NWB regions of the juvenile acetabulum (65.3%/dry weight [DW]) and femoral head (75.4%/DW) cartilages. GAG content was highest in the WB region of the juvenile acetabulum (23.7%/DW) and the WB region of the fetal femoral head (27.5%/DW) cartilages. Histological staining for GAG and total collagen content followed the trends from the quantitative biochemical assays.


This study provides a benchmark for the development and validation of preclinical porcine models for hip cartilage pathologies.

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