Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Part H, Journal of engineering in medicine

Quantifying the lubricity of mechanically tough polyvinyl alcohol hydrogels for cartilage repair.

PMID 26614798


Polyvinyl alcohol hydrogels are biocompatible and can be used as synthetic articular cartilage. Their mechanical characteristics can be tailored by various techniques such as annealing or blending with other hydrophilic polymers. In this study, we quantified the coefficient of friction of various candidate polyvinyl alcohol hydrogels against cobalt-chrome alloy or swine cartilage using a new rheometer-based method. We investigated the coefficient of friction of polyvinyl alcohol-only hydrogels and blends with polyethylene glycol, polyacrylic acid, and polyacrylamide against swine cartilage and polished cobalt-chrome surfaces. The addition of the functional groups to polyvinyl alcohol, such as acrylamide (semi-interpenetrating network) and acrylic acid (blend), significantly reduced the coefficient of friction. The coefficient of friction of the polyvinyl alcohol-only hydrogel was measured as 0.4 ± 0.03 against cobalt-chrome alloy, and 0.09 ± 0.004 against cartilage, while those measurements for the polyvinyl alcohol-polyacrylic acid blends and polyvinyl alcohol-polyacrylamide semi-interpenetrating network were 0.07 ± 0.01 and 0.1 ± 0.003 against cobalt-chrome alloy, and 0.03 ± 0.001 and 0.02 ± 0.001 against cartilage, respectively. There was no significant or minimal difference in the coefficient of friction between samples from different regions of the knee, or animals, or when the cartilage samples were frozen for 1 day or 2 days before testing. However, changing lubricant from deionized water to ionic media, for example, saline or simulated body fluid, increased the coefficient of friction significantly.