Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 234–252 | Cite as

Characterization of the surface and interfacial properties of the lamina splendens

  • Joe T. Rexwinkle
  • Heather K. Hunt
  • Ferris M. Pfeiffer
Review Article


Joint disease affects approximately 52.5 million patients in the United States alone, costing 80.8 billion USD in direct healthcare costs. The development of treatment programs for joint disease and trauma requires accurate assessment of articular cartilage degradation. The articular cartilage is the interfacial tissue between articulating surfaces, such as bones, and acts as low-friction interfaces. Damage to the lamina splendens, which is the articular cartilage’s topmost layer, is an early indicator of joint degradation caused by injury or disease. By gaining comprehensive knowledge on the lamina splendens, particularly its structure and interfacial properties, researchers could enhance the accuracy of human and animal biomechanical models, as well as develop appropriate biomimetic materials for replacing damaged articular cartilage, thereby leading to rational treatment programs for joint disease and injury. Previous studies that utilize light, electron, and force microscopy techniques have found that the lamina splendens is composed of collagen fibers oriented parallel to the cartilage surface and encased in a proteoglycan matrix. Such orientation maximizes wear resistance and proteoglycan retention while promoting the passage of nutrients and synovial fluid. Although the structure of the lamina splendens has been explored in the literature, the low-friction interface of this tissue remains only partially characterized. Various functional models are currently available for the interface, such as pure boundary lubrication, thin films exuded under pressure, and sheets of trapped proteins. Recent studies suggest that each of these lubrication models has certain advantages over one another. Further research is needed to fully model the interface of this tissue. In this review, we summarize the methods for characterizing the lamina splendens and the results of each method. This paper aims to serve as a resource for existing studies to date and a roadmap of the investigations needed to gain further insight into the lamina splendens and the progression of joint disease.


cartilage lamina splendens characterization biomechanics orthopaedic review 


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We thank Khanh Van Nguyen for creating all unreferenced images in the paper and Jill Jouret and Paul J. D. Whiteside for their assistance in editing the paper prior to submission. The authors report no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joe T. Rexwinkle
    • 1
  • Heather K. Hunt
    • 2
  • Ferris M. Pfeiffer
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.BioengineeringUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Orthopaedic SurgeryUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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