Biocompatibility of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE) stabilized with α-tocopherol used for joint endoprostheses assessed in vitro

  • Christian Wolf
  • Klaus LedererEmail author
  • Roswitha Pfragner
  • Konrad Schauenstein
  • Elisabeth Ingolic
  • Veronika Siegl


Adding the natural antioxidant α-tocopherol to ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE) can remarkably delay the oxidation of hip cups made thereof. However, α-tocopherol is likely to undergo different chemical transformations during manufacturing and sterilization of hip cups than in human metabolism. Therefore, the biocompatibility of the putative transformation products has to be investigated. In-vitro tests with L929 mice fibroblast-cells gave no evidence for cytotoxicity. To further ensure the biocompatibility, in-vitro tests with human cells were carried out in this study. Two different human cell lines, one adherent cell line, HF-SAR, and one suspension culture, GSJO, were tested on UHMW-PE-tablets (diameter: 15 mm; thickness: 2 mm; processed according to standard procedures for artificial hip-cups) with and without α-tocopherol with respect to cell viability, proliferation and morphology by means of cell counting, WSt-1 proliferation assay and scanning electron microscopy. Similar proliferation rates were found with both polyethylene samples. Further, we found intact morphology in light and electron microscopy on each substrate. The morphologic characteristics of skin fibroblasts were not changed by any material. Normal adherence and spreading of the fibroblasts was found on controls of glass, as well as on polystyrene and on stabilized and unstabilized polyethylene. The characteristic behaviour as suspension of the GSJO cells remained unchanged. The mitochondrial activity, as studied by WST-1 cell proliferation reagent, was identical on each substrate during the whole observation period of 7 days.


LDPE Transformation Product L929 Mouse Silicone Ring Cell Proliferation Reagent 
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We like to thank Dr. Markus Windler and Dipl.Ing. W. Schneider of Zimmer Inc., Winterthur, Switzerland, for washing and sterilizing the specimens under inert atmosphere, Dr. Wolfgang Payer from TICONA AG, Oberhausen, Germany, for providing the Hostalen GUR 1020 as well as Dr. Ernst Wagner from Hoffmann-LaRoche AG, Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany, for providing the α-tocopherol as gift samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Wolf
    • 1
    • 2
  • Klaus Lederer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Roswitha Pfragner
    • 4
  • Konrad Schauenstein
    • 4
  • Elisabeth Ingolic
    • 3
  • Veronika Siegl
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry of Polymeric MaterialsUniversity of LeobenLeobenAustria
  2. 2.Polymer Competence Center Leoben GmbH (PCCL)LeobenAustria
  3. 3.Research Institute for Electron Microscopy and Finestructure ResearchTechnical University GrazGrazAustria
  4. 4.Department of PathophysiologyMedical University GrazGrazAustria

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