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School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics
Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment
The complex inhomogeneous architecture of the human meniscal tissue at the micro and nano scale in the absence of artefacts introduced by sample treatments has not yet been fully revealed. The knowledge of the internal structure organization is essential to understand the mechanical functionality of the meniscus and its relationship with the tissue’s complex structure. In this work, we investigated human meniscal tissue structure using up-to-date non-invasive imaging techniques, based on multiphoton fluorescence and quantitative second harmonic generation microscopy complemented with Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy measurements. Observations on 50 meniscal samples extracted from 6 human menisci (3 lateral and 3 medial) revealed fundamental features of structural morphology and allowed us to quantitatively describe the 3D organisation of elastin and collagen fibres bundles. 3D regular waves of collagen bundles are arranged in “honeycomb-like” cells that are comprised of pores surrounded by the collagen and elastin network at the micro-scale. This type of arrangement propagates from macro to the nanoscale.
The meniscus plays a critical role in load transmission, stability and energy dissipation in the knee joint. Loss of the meniscus leads to joint degeneration and osteoarthritis. In a number of cases replacement of the resected meniscal tissue by a synthetic implant might avoid the articular cartilage degeneration. None of the available implants presents optimal biomechanics characteristic due to the fact the biomechanics functionality of the meniscus is not yet fully understood. Mimicking the native biomechanical characteristics of the menisci seems to be the key factor in meniscus replacement functioning. This is extremely challenging due to its complex inhomogeneous microstructure, the lack of a full experimental characterization of the material properties and the lack of 3D theoretical, numerical and computational models which can reproduce and validate the experimental results. The objective of this work is to present the experimental characterization of the anisotropic meniscal tissue at the macroscale. Innovative Biaxial tests have been conducted and the results are new to the literature.