Normal, mature articular cartilage does not spontaneously repair itself back to hyaline cartilage after an injury or degenerative disease (e.g., osteoarthritis)—problems of increasing importance in an aging population. A promising new approach is to repair damaged cartilage by a method known as Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI)—a technique pioneered and further developed by the Cartilage Research Unit at Goteborg University in Sweden. However, the tribological properties of the repaired cartilage, including the important property wear-resistance, are unknown. How durable is the repaired cartilage? How long will it last? One of the co-authors, Dr. Mats Brittberg, has provided 16 samples of 2mm diameter human biopsies from the knees of eight Swedish patients for testing in our biotribology device. This paper presents results of wear experiments on cartilage repaired by Brittberg’s ACI technique and, for comparison, two other methods. Four of these samples (2 pairs) were from patients who had undergone the ACI procedure while another four were from those who had other methods of repair. A pair consists of a biopsy from the repaired area of the joint along with a sample from nearby “healthy” cartilage from the same joint. Thus, each pair allowed for a direct comparison of the tribological properties of the repaired cartilage to those of “normal” cartilage from the same joint. The results of this study show that the ACI method of cartilage repair gave substantially less wear than that of normal cartilage while spontaneous repair and abrasion arthroplasty produced higher wear. Friction levels were in the boundary lubrication regime and, in line with our previous experience, had no correlation with wear. Results obtained with cartilage from the remaining patients will be discussed in future papers.

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