BACKGROUND: Semipermeability to fluid transport is one of the principal attributes of a tissue like articular cartilage. Consequently, this characteristic can be exploited in attempts to understand the functional roles of the biological layer of Surface Active Phospholipids (SAPL) which form on its surfaces. A previous study, relevant to peritoneal SAPL was carried out in which hypertonic glucose solution was dialysed against physiological saline through SAPL membrane and concluded that SAPL possessed semipermeability. Our analysis extends this previous study by dialysing hypertonic and hypotonic saline solutions against physiological saline via SAPL membranes which is more relevant to the articular joint environment. MATERIAL/METHODS: Membranes were produced from either synthetic or bovine cartilage SAPL and used to carry out tests involving the dialysis of hypotonic and hypertonic sodium chloride solutions against physiological saline, using an Ussing chamber to hold both the membranes and dialysis fluids. RESULTS: The dialysis produced osmotic pressures which are commensurate with our experimental constraints, but strongly indicated that it is indeed possible to generate osmotic pressures using SAPL membranes, indicating the semipermeability of this lipid structure. CONCLUSIONS: It is widely accepted that the collagen-proteoglycan membrane provides the semipermeability of articular cartilage despite the low levels of osmotic pressure recorded in our experiments, our results demonstrate that SAPL aggregation can constitute a semipermeable layer with a strong capability to contribute to the semipermeablity of the collagen-proteoglycan system especially on the surface of the tissue. Consequently its deficiency, as seen in osteoarthritis could lead/contribute to cartilage dysfunction.