Development of a synovial fluid analogue with bio-relevant rheology for wear testing of orthopaedic implants

Smith, Alan M.; Fleming, Leigh; Wudebwe, Uchena; Bowen, James and Grover, Liam M. (2013). Development of a synovial fluid analogue with bio-relevant rheology for wear testing of orthopaedic implants. Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, 32 pp. 177–184.



The rheological properties of synovial fluid (SF) are crucial to the performance of joint prostheses. During the development of joint prostheses, wear tests are performed, which simulate joint movements in diluted solutions (usually between 25 and 33% v/v) of bovine serum which has very different rheological properties compared with native SF, where rheology is maintained by hyaluronan. Consequently, there is a need to develop a more suitable artificial SF. In this study, we used rheological techniques to understand SF flow properties which provided an insight into the mechanical behaviour required of a practical SF analogue. Steady-shear viscosity measurements were performed to reveal changes as a function of shear rate. To analyse the viscoelastic properties small deformation oscillatory measurements of storage modulus (G') loss modulus (G″) and complex viscosity (η*) were made. The rheological properties of the SF where compared with those of the polysaccharides sodium alginate, gellan gum and mixtures of both polymers. Initial results revealed classic shear thinning behaviour for the SF with a small Newtonian plateau at low shear rates with a gradual reduction in viscosity with increasing shear rate. Viscoelasticity measurements also showed that at low frequencies of oscillation there was a viscous response with G″ greater than G' and at higher frequencies there was an elastic response. Rheological properties were found to be similar to that of a 50:50 mix of 2% w/v high molecular weight alginate and 0.75% w/v gellan gum. Importantly, the lubricating behaviour of the serum differed significantly from the biopolymer blend over a full range of sliding velocities. The biopolymer blend was shown to lubricate the opposing surfaces more effectively. This difference was attributed to the more rapid alignment of the polysaccharide during shear when compared with the bovine albumin.

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