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  1. Abstract

    Polyacrylamide hydrogels are widely used in biomedical applications due to their tunable mechanical properties and charge neutrality. Our recent tribological investigations of polyacrylamide gels have revealed tunable and pH-dependent friction behavior. To determine the origins of this pH-responsiveness, we prepared polyacrylamide hydrogels with two different initiating chemistries: a reduction–oxidation (redox)-initiated system using ammonium persulfate (APS) andN,N,NN-tetramethylethylenediamine (TEMED) and a UV-initiated system with 2-hydroxy-4′-(2-hydroxyethoxy)-2-methylpropiophenone (Irgacure 2959). Hydrogel swelling, mechanical properties, and tribological behavior were investigated in response to solution pH (ranging from ≈ 0.34 to 13.5). For polyacrylamide hydrogels in sliding contact with glass hemispherical probes, friction coefficients decreased fromµ = 0.07 ± 0.02 toµ = 0.002 ± 0.002 (redox-initiated) and fromµ = 0.05 ± 0.03 toµ = 0.003 ± 0.003 (UV-initiated) with increasing solution pH. With hemispherical polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) probes, friction coefficients of redox-initiated hydrogels similarly decreased fromµ = 0.06 ± 0.01 toµ = 0.002 ± 0.001 with increasing pH. Raman spectroscopy measurements demonstrated hydrolysis and the conversion of amide groups to carboxylic acid in basic conditions. We therefore propose that the mechanism for pH-responsive friction in polyacrylamide hydrogels may be credited to hydrolysis-driven swelling through the conversion of side chain amide groups into carboxylic groups and/or crosslinker degradation. Our results could assist in the rational design of hydrogel-based tribological pairs for biomedical applications from acidic to alkaline conditions.

    Graphical abstract

     
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  2. Abstract Some textured silicone breast implants with high average surface roughness (‘macrotextured’) have been associated with a rare cancer of the immune system, Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). Silicone elastomer wear debris may lead to chronic inflammation, a key step in the development of this cancer. Here, we model the generation and release of silicone wear debris in the case of a folded implant-implant (‘shell-shell’) sliding interface for three different types of implants, characterized by their surface roughness. The ‘smooth’ implant shell with the lowest average surface roughness tested (R a = 2.7 ± 0.6 μ m) resulted in average friction coefficients of μ avg = 0.46 ± 0.11 across 1,000 mm of sliding distance and generated 1,304 particles with an average particle diameter of D avg = 8.3 ± 13.1 μ m. The ‘microtextured’ implant shell (R a = 32 ± 7.0 μ m) exhibited μ avg = 1.20 ± 0.10 and generated 2,730 particles with D avg = 4.7 ± 9.1 μ m. The ‘macrotextured’ implant shell (R a = 80 ± 10 μ m) exhibited the highest friction coefficients, μ avg = 2.82 ± 0.15 and the greatest number of wear debris particles, 11,699, with an average particle size of D avg = 5.3 ± 3.3 μ m. Our data may provide guidance for the design of silicone breast implants with lower surface roughness, lower friction, and smaller quantities of wear debris. 
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  3. Silicone elastomer medical implants are ubiquitous in medicine, particularly for breast augmentation. However, when these devices are placed within the body, disruption of the natural biological interfaces occurs, which significantly changes the native energy-dissipation mechanisms of living systems. These new interfaces can introduce non-physiological contact pressures and tribological conditions that provoke inflammation and soft tissue damage. Despite their significance, the biotribological properties of implant-tissue and implant-extracellular matrix (ECM) interfaces remain poorly understood. Here, we developed an in vitro model of soft tissue damage using a custom-built in situ biotribometer mounted onto a confocal microscope. Sections of commercially-available silicone breast implants with distinct and clinically relevant surface roughness ([Formula: see text]m, [Formula: see text]m, and [Formula: see text]m) were mounted to spherically-capped hydrogel probes and slid against collagen-coated hydrogel surfaces as well as healthy breast epithelial (MCF10A) cell monolayers to model implant-ECM and implant-tissue interfaces. In contrast to the “smooth” silicone implants ([Formula: see text]m), we demonstrate that the “microtextured” silicone implant ([Formula: see text]m) induced higher frictional shear stress ([Formula: see text]  Pa), which led to greater collagen removal and cell rupture/delamination. Our studies may provide insights into post-implantation tribological interactions between silicone breast implants and soft tissues. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  4. Poly(acrylamide- co -acrylic acid) (P(AAm- co -AA)) hydrogels are highly tunable and pH-responsive materials frequently used in biomedical applications. The swelling behavior and mechanical properties of these gels have been extensively characterized and are thought to be controlled by the protonation state of the acrylic acid (AA) through the regulation of solution pH. However, their tribological properties have been underexplored. Here, we hypothesized that electrostatics and the protonation state of AA would drive the tribological properties of these polyelectrolyte gels. P(AAm- co -AA) hydrogels were prepared with constant acrylamide (AAm) concentration (33 wt%) and varying AA concentration to control the amount of ionizable groups in the gel. The monomer:crosslinker molar ratio (200:1) was kept constant. Hydrogel swelling, stiffness, and friction behavior were studied by systematically varying the acrylic acid (AA) concentration from 0–12 wt% and controlling solution pH (0.35, 7, 13.8) and ionic strength ( I = 0 or 0.25 M). The stiffness and friction coefficient of bulk hydrogels were evaluated using a microtribometer and borosilicate glass probes as countersurfaces. The swelling behavior and elastic modulus of these polyelectrolyte hydrogels were highly sensitive to solution pH and poorly predicted the friction coefficient ( µ ), which decreased with increasing AA concentration. P(AAm- co -AA) hydrogels with the greatest AA concentrations (12 wt%) exhibited superlubricity ( µ = 0.005 ± 0.001) when swollen in unbuffered, deionized water (pH = 7, I = 0 M) and 0.5 M NaOH (pH = 13.8, I = 0.25 M) ( µ = 0.005 ± 0.002). Friction coefficients generally decreased with increasing AA and increasing solution pH. We postulate that tunable lubricity in P(AAm- co -AA) gels arises from changes in the protonation state of acrylic acid and electrostatic interactions between the probe and hydrogel surface. 
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