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Kangaroo studies offer insight into cartilage biomechanics in the human shoulder

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Tests on kangaroo cartilage in Australia could lead to improved treatments and better artificial joint implants for human patients with shoulder problems.

Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane studied kangaroo cartilage as an analogue for human tissue, which is harder to obtain. As the American Institute of Physics (AIP) reports, there are sound reasons for choosing the marsupial: it has a bidpedal posture, is similar in size and weight to a human, and the kangaroo´s grabbing, punching and lifting limb action resembles human shoulder-mediated movements.

The research showed how shoulder and knee cartilage behaves differently in response to external loadings.

In the shoulder, a network of collagen protein close to the surface plays an important role in helping the cartilage absorb forces without causing damage.

This finding differs from most studies of knee cartilage, suggesting that artificial knee and shoulder joints may need to be engineered differently.

“Knee cartilage has been studied extensively. However, there are only limited studies specifically focusing on shoulder cartilage tissues. We think [studying shoulder cartilage] is important, because, especially in sports activities, there is a possibility that the shoulder may get affected by injuries and eventual osteoarthritic development,” explained Yuantong Gu, a professor at the Queensland University of Technology, who led the team.

“We hope to improve the design and manufacture of artificial cartilage materials by applying our improved understanding of the key factors that contribute to the biomechanical properties of the natural cartilage,” Gu added.

The findings of the study have been published in the AIP journal Applied Physics Letters.