Synthesis and characterization of a zwitterionic hydrogel blend with low coefficient of friction

Allen O. Osaheni, Eric B. Finkelstein, Patrick T Mather, Michelle M. Blum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Hydrogels display a great deal of potential for a wide variety of biomedical applications. Often times the performance of these biomimetic materials is limited due to inferior friction and wear properties. This manuscript presents a method inspired by the tribological phenomena observed in nature for enhancing the lubricious properties of poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) hydrogels. This was achieved by blending PVA with various amounts of zwitterionic polymer, poly([2-(methacryloyloxy) ethyl] dimethyl-(3-sulfopropyl) ammonium hydroxide) (pMEDSAH). Our results indicate that pMEDSAH acts as an effective boundary lubricant, allowing for reduction in coefficient of friction by more than 80%. This reduction in friction coefficient was achieved while maintaining comparable mechanical and physical properties to that of the neat material. Also, these zwitterionic blends were found to be cytocompatible. Analysis of the structure to property relationships within this system indicate that the zwitterionic polymer served as a boundary lubricant and promoted a reduction in friction through hydration lubrication. This novel approach provides a promising platform for further investigations enhancing the tribological properties of hydrogels for biomedical applications. Statement of Significance The novelty of this work stems from showing that zwitterionic polymers can be used as an extremely effective hydrogel boundary lubricant. This work will have significant scientific impact because to date, design of hydrogels has emphasized replication of mechanical properties, but in order for these types of materials to be fully utilized as biomaterials it is imperative that they possess improved tribological and lubrication properties, because ignoring the surface and boundary lubrication mechanism, make these potential load-bearing substitutes incompatible with other natural articulating surfaces, leading the constructs to wear, fail, and damage healthy tissue. Our work also provides unique insight to the structure-property-function relationships of these biomaterials which will be of great interest to the readership of the journal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-255
Number of pages11
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Biomimetic
  • Boundary lubrication
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Hydrogel
  • Polymer blend
  • Zwitterionic polymer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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