Liposomes act as effective biolubricants for friction reduction in human synovial joints

Sarit Sivan, Avi Schroeder, Gabi Verberne, Yulia Merkher, Dvora Diminsky, Aba Priev, Alice Maroudas, Gregory Halperin, Dorrit Nitzan, Izhak Etsion, Yechezkel Barenholz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Phospholipids (PL) form the matrix of biological membranes and of the lipoprotein envelope monolayer, and are responsible for many of the unique physicochemical, biochemical, and biological properties of these supermolecular bioassemblies. It was suggested that phospholipids present in the synovial fluid (SF) and on the surface of articular cartilage have major involvement in the low friction of cartilage, which is essential for proper mobility of synovial joints. In pathologies, such as impaired biolubrication (leading to common joint disorders such, as osteoarthritis), the level of phospholipids in the SF is reduced. Using a human-sourced cartilage-on-cattilage setup, we studied, to what extent and how phospholipids act as highly effective cartilage biolubricants. We found that large multilamellar vesicles (MLV), > 800 nm in diameter, composed of 1,2-dimyristoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DMPC) or of a mixture of DMPC and 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC) are superior lubricants in comparison to MLV composed of other phosphatidylcholines. Introducing cholesterol into liposomes resulted in less effective lubricants. DMPC-MLV was also superior to small unilamellar vesicles (SUV), < 100 nm in diameter, composed of DMPC. MLV are superior to SUV due to MLV retention at and near (< 200 μm below) the cartilage surface, while SUV penetrate deeper into the cartilage (450-730 μm). Superiority of specific PL compositions is explained, by the thermotropic behavior (including compressibility) of the lipid bilayer. Correlating physicochemical properties of the MLV with the friction results suggests that MLV having lipid bilayers in the liquid-disordered phase and having a solid-ordered to liquid-disordered phase transition temperature slightly below physiological temperature are optimal for lubrication. High phospholipid headgroup hydration, high compressibility, and softness are the common denominators of all efficient PL compositions. The high efficiency of DMPGMLV and DMPC/DPPC-MLV as cartilage lubricants combined with their resistance to degradation at 37°C supports further evaluation of these MLV for treatment of joint impairments related to poor lubrication. This work also demonstrates the relevance of basic physicochemical properties of phospholipids to their activities in biological systems.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1107-1116
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - 19 Jan 2010


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