Mechanobiology of the meniscus.

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The meniscus plays a critical biomechanical role in the knee, providing load support, joint stability, and congruity. Importantly, growing evidence indicates that the mechanobiologic response of meniscal cells plays a critical role in the physiologic, pathologic, and repair responses of the meniscus. Here we review experimental and theoretical studies that have begun to directly measure the biomechanical effects of joint loading on the meniscus under physiologic and pathologic conditions, showing that the menisci are exposed to high contact stresses, resulting in a complex and nonuniform stress-strain environment within the tissue. By combining microscale measurements of the mechanical properties of meniscal cells and their pericellular and extracellular matrix regions, theoretical and experimental models indicate that the cells in the meniscus are exposed to a complex and inhomogeneous environment of stress, strain, fluid pressure, fluid flow, and a variety of physicochemical factors. Studies across a range of culture systems from isolated cells to tissues have revealed that the biological response of meniscal cells is directly influenced by physical factors, such as tension, compression, and hydrostatic pressure. In addition, these studies have provided new insights into the mechanotransduction mechanisms by which physical signals are converted into metabolic or pro/anti-inflammatory responses. Taken together, these in vivo and in vitro studies show that mechanical factors play an important role in the health, degeneration, and regeneration of the meniscus. A more thorough understanding of the mechanobiologic responses of the meniscus will hopefully lead to therapeutic approaches to prevent degeneration and enhance repair of the meniscus.





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McNulty, Amy L, and Farshid Guilak (2015). Mechanobiology of the meniscus. J Biomech, 48(8). pp. 1469–1478. 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2015.02.008 Retrieved from

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Amy Lynn McNulty

Associate Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery

The McNulty Lab is working to develop strategies to prevent osteoarthritis and to promote tissue repair and regeneration following joint injury. In order to accomplish this, we are working in three main areas.  1) We are working to understand the pathways that are activated by normal and injurious mechanical loading of cartilage and meniscus and how these mechanotransduction pathways are altered during aging, injury, and tissue degeneration. A greater understanding of alterations in mechanosensitive signaling mechanisms with aging and injury will likely reveal potential targets to promote tissue repair and prevent tissue degeneration and osteoarthritis development. 2) We are developing meniscus tissue engineered constructs that will be utilized to repair and replace meniscus tissue lost due to injury and surgical resection.  3)  We are focusing on the biological and biomechanical changes that occur in the joint following meniscus injury and how these may contribute to osteoarthritis development.   

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