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A possible source of replacement cartilage

Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering New material based on aramid and polyvinyl alcohol is flexible and strongJoseph Xu, Michigan Engineering

Researchers from the United States and China have developed a synthetic material that could—in principle—replicate the mechanical properties of biological tissues such as cartilage and tendons better than other materials currently being tested. Cartilage, which is composed of collagen and proteoglycan (proteins coated with sugar molecules), is highly resistant to impact and stress. The new material was created from a combination of aramid and polyvinyl alcohol. Commonly known by its trade name Kevlar (the material used in bulletproof vests), aramid nanofibers are resistant to heat, pressure, and stress, and polyvinyl alcohol is a water-soluble polymer. A group of researchers from the University of Michigan, USA, and Jiangnan University, China, led by Nicholas Kotov, combined the two compounds to produce a composite with similar properties to biological cartilage, with a high water content and a stable structure, rigid and resistant to stress. The researchers produced the composite with different water levels (from 70% to 92%). Even at the highest levels of water content, the strength of the material was comparable to that of biological cartilage (Advanced Materials, January 4). Other synthetic materials for repairing human cartilage are being tested, but none have matched the characteristics of this new development.