Altered mechano-chemical environment in hip articular cartilage: effect of obesity

Francesco Travascio, Moataz Eltoukhy, Sonila Cami, Shihab Asfour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The production of extracellular matrix (ECM) components of articular cartilage is regulated, among other factors, by an intercellular signaling mechanism mediated by the interaction of cell surface receptors (CSR) with insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). In ECM, the presence of binding proteins (IGFBP) hinders IGF-1 delivery to CSR. It has been reported that levels of IGF-1 and IGFBP in obese population are, respectively, lower and higher than those found in normal population. In this study, an experimental–numerical approach was adopted to quantify the effect of this metabolic alteration found in obese population on the homeostasis of femoral hip cartilage. A new computational model, based on the mechano-electrochemical mixture theory, was developed to describe competitive binding kinetics of IGF-1 with IGFBP and CSR, and associated glycosaminoglycan (GAG) biosynthesis. Moreover, a gait analysis was carried out on obese and normal subjects to experimentally characterize mechanical loads on hip cartilage during walking. This information was deployed into the model to account for effects of physiologically relevant tissue deformation on GAG production in ECM. Numerical simulations were performed to compare GAG biosynthesis in femoral hip cartilage of normal and obese subjects. Results indicated that the lower ratio of IGF-1 to IGFBP found in obese population reduces cartilage GAG concentration up to 18 % when compared to normal population. Moreover, moderate physical activity, such as walking, has a modest beneficial effect on GAG production. The findings of this study suggest that IGF-1/IGFBP metabolic unbalance should be accounted for when considering the association of obesity with hip osteoarthritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-959
Number of pages15
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Competitive binding reactions
  • Gait analysis
  • Hip articular cartilage
  • Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1)
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Modeling and Simulation


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