Phospholipids and hyaluronan are two key biomolecules that contribute to the excellent lubrication of articular joints. Phospholipids alone and in combination with hyaluronan have also displayed low friction forces on smooth surfaces in micro- and nanosized tribological contacts. In an effort to develop aqueous-based lubrication systems, it is highly relevant to explore if these types of molecules also are able to provide efficient lubrication of macroscopic tribological contacts involving surfaces with roughness larger than the thickness of the lubricating layer. To this end, we investigated the lubrication performance of hyaluronan, the phospholipid 1,2-dipalmitoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC), and mixtures of these two components using glass surfaces in a mini-traction machine. We compared our data with those obtained using flat silica surfaces in previous atomic force microscopy studies, and we also highlighted insights on hyaluronan–phospholipid interactions gained from recent simulations. Our data demonstrate that hyaluronan alone does not provide any lubricating benefit, but DPPC alone and in mixtures with hyaluronan reduces the friction force by an order of magnitude.
Keywords: phospholipid; hyaluronan; mini-traction machine; lubrication; friction