Regional variations in growth plate chondrocyte deformation as predicted by three-dimensional multi-scale simulations


The physis, or growth plate, is a complex disc-shaped cartilage structure that is responsible for longitudinal bone growth. In this study, a multi-scale computational approach was undertaken to better understand how physiological loads are experienced by chondrocytes embedded inside chondrons when subjected tomoderate strain under instantaneous compressive loading of the growth plate. Models of representative samples of compressed bone/growthplate/bone from a 0.67mm thick 4-month old bovine proximal tibial physis were subjected to a prescribed displacement equal to 20%of the growth plate thickness. At the macroscale level, the applied compressive deformation resulted in an overall compressive strain across the proliferative-hypertrophic zone of 17%. The microscale model predicted that chondrocytes sustained compressive height strains of 12%and 6% in the proliferative and hypertrophic zones, respectively, in the interior regions of the plate. This pattern was reversed within the outer 300 μm region at the free surface where cells were compressed by 10%in the proliferative and 26%in the hypertrophic zones, in agreement with experimental observations. This work provides a new approach to study growth plate behavior under compression and illustrates the need for combining computational and experimental methods to better understand the chondrocyte mechanics in the growth plate cartilage. While the current model is relevant to fast dynamic events, such as heel strike in walking, we believe this approach provides new insight into the mechanical factors that regulate bone growth at the cell level and provides a basis for developingmodels to help interpret experimental results at varying time scales.

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