Friction coefficients for mechanically damaged bovine articular cartilage

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2012 Jul;109(7):1769-78. doi: 10.1002/bit.24435. Epub 2012 Jan 24.


We used a pin-on-disc tribometer to measure the friction coefficient of both pristine and mechanically damaged cartilage samples in the presence of different lubricant solutions. The experimental set up maximizes the lubrication mechanism due to interstitial fluid pressurization. In phosphate buffer solution (PBS), the measured friction coefficient increases with the level of damage. The main result is that when poly(ethylene oxide) (PEO) or hyaluronic acid (HA) are dissolved in PBS, or when synovial fluid (SF) is used as lubricant, the friction coefficients measured for damaged cartilage samples are only slightly larger than those obtained for pristine cartilage samples, indicating that the surface damage is in part alleviated by the presence of the various lubricants. Among the lubricants considered, 100 mg/mL of 100,000 Da MW PEO in PBS appears to be as effective as SF. We attempted to discriminate the lubrication mechanism enhanced by the various compounds. The lubricants viscosity was measured at shear rates comparable to those employed in the friction experiments, and a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring was used to study the adsorption of PEO, HA, and SF components on collagen type II adlayers pre-formed on hydroxyapatite. Under the shear rates considered the viscosity of SF is slightly larger than that of PBS, but lower than that of lubricant formulations containing HA or PEO. Neither PEO nor HA showed strong adsorption on collagen adlayers, while evidence of adsorption was found for SF. Combined, these results suggest that synovial fluid is likely to enhance boundary lubrication. It is possible that all three formulations enhance lubrication via the interstitial fluid pressurization mechanism, maximized by the experimental set up adopted in our friction tests.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular / chemistry*
  • Cartilage, Articular / injuries
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Cattle
  • Friction*
  • Hyaluronic Acid / chemistry
  • Lubricants / chemistry
  • Lubrication
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Quartz Crystal Microbalance Techniques
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Synovial Fluid / chemistry
  • Viscosity


  • Lubricants
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Hyaluronic Acid