NSF grant supports research to shed light on how cartilage works.

Cartilage, a connective tissue found throughout the body, is critical to the function of our joints. Tough yet flexible, it supports load and enables frictionless motion between joint surfaces.

“Cartilage performs these functions remarkably well…until it doesn’t,” says Christopher Price, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Delaware.

Popular thinking has been that cartilage degrades as we use it, much like bearings in an engine wearing down over time, but recent research has shown that activities like walking and running actually decrease the risk of joint failure.

“During loading, interstitial fluid, which comprises about 80 percent of cartilage, is automatically pressurized to support load and lubricate the joint,” Price says.

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