Differential limb loading in miniature pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus): A test of chondral modeling theory

Kimberly A. Congdon, Ashley S. Hammond, Matthew J. Ravosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Variation in mechanical loading is known to influence chondrogenesis during joint formation. However, the interaction among chondrocyte behavior and variation in activity patterns is incompletely understood, hindering our knowledge of limb ontogeny and function. Here, the role of endurance exercise in the development of articular and physeal cartilage in the humeral head was examined in 14 miniature swine (Sus scrofa domesticus). One group was subjected to graded treadmill running over a period of 17 weeks. A matched sedentary group was confined to individual pens. Hematoxylin and eosin staining was performed for histomorphometry of cartilage zone thickness, chondrocyte count and cell area, with these parameters compared multivariately between exercised and sedentary groups. Comparisons were also made with femora from the same sample, focusing on humerus-femur differences between exercised and sedentary groups, within-cohort comparisons of humerus-femur responses and correlated changes within and across joints. This study shows conflicting support for the chondral modeling theory. The humeral articular cartilage of exercised pigs was thinner than that of sedentary pigs, but their physeal cartilage was thicker. While articular and physeal cartilage demonstrated between-cohort differences, humeral physeal cartilage exhibited load-induced responses of greater magnitude than humeral articular cartilage. Controlling for cohort, the humerus showed increased chondrocyte mitosis and cell area, presumably due to relatively greater loading than the femur. This represents the first known effort to evaluate chondral modeling across multiple joints from the same individuals. Our findings suggest the chondral response to elevated loading is complex, varying within and among joints. This has important implications for understanding joint biomechanics and development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1472-1483
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cartilage
  • Chondrogenesis
  • Joints
  • Limbs
  • Mammals
  • Mechanobiology
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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