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J Biomech. 2011 Jul 28;44(11):2015-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.04.015. Epub 2011 Jun 15.

The role of lubricant entrapment at biological interfaces: reduction of friction and adhesion in articular cartilage.

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Center for Tissue Regeneration and Repair, University of California, Davis, Medical Center, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA.


Friction and adhesion of articular cartilage from high- and low-load-bearing regions of bovine knee joints were examined with a tribometer under various loads and equilibration times. The effect of trapped lubricants was investigated by briefly unloading the cartilage sample before friction testing, to allow fluid to reflow into the contact interface and boundary lubricants to rearrange. Friction and adhesion of high-load-bearing joint regions were consistently lower than those of low-load-bearing regions. This investigation is the first to demonstrate the regional variation in the friction and adhesion properties of articular cartilage. Friction coefficient decreased with increasing contact pressure and decreasing equilibration time. Briefly unloading cartilage before the onset of sliding resulted in significantly lower friction and adhesion and a loss of the friction dependence on contact pressure, suggesting an enhancement of the cartilage tribological properties by trapped lubricants. The results of this study reveal significant differences in the friction and adhesion properties between high- and low-load-bearing joint regions and elucidate the role of trapped lubricants in cartilage tribology.

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