Articulation of an alumina-zirconia composite ceramic against living cartilage – An in vitro wear test

Markus A. Wimmer, Carol Pacione, Catherine Yuh, Yuet Ming Chan, Joachim Kunze, Michel P. Laurent, Susan Chubinskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is interest in minimally invasive solutions that reduce osteoarthritic symptoms and restore joint mobility in the early stages of cartilage degeneration. The aim of the present study was to evaluate an alumina-zirconia composite (AZC) as a counterface for articulation against live cartilage explants in comparison to the clinically relevant cobalt-chromium (CoCrMo) alloy. Methods: A four-station bioreactor designed to articulate against living tissue in an incubator was used for testing. Twelve 32 mm AZC and twelve 32 mm CoCrMo femoral heads with equal surface roughness made up both test groups. Each head articulated against a cartilage disk harvested from stifle joints of 24-week old steers. Test samples and free-swelling control cartilage samples were cultured in Mini ITS medium. Testing was conducted 3 h daily over 10 days applying a contact load of approximately 2 MPa. PG/GAG and hydroxyproline were analyzed using biochemical assays. Additionally, chondrocyte survival and Mankin score analyses were performed on histological slides. Results: Cells stayed alive during the course of the experiment, with cell survival values close to 80% at test completion in the superficial zone. There was no significant difference between AZC and free-swelling control tissue. However, cell count values were inferior for CoCrMo (p = 0.003). Tested tissue suffered mostly structural abnormalities. The PG/GAG content in medium was not different between CoCrMo and AZC (p = 0.315); however, the hydroxyproline release into medium was nearly 30% higher for CoCrMo (p = 0.024). Conclusion: Based on average values, AZC induces less cell and tissue damage than CoCrMo. However, only the hydroxyproline measurements reached statistical significance, partially due to substantial scatter within both groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103531
JournalJournal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Alumina-zirconia-composite
  • Cartilage
  • Ceramic
  • Cobalt-chromium
  • Defect repair
  • Hemiarthroplasty
  • Metal
  • Wear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials


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