Tailoring the toughness and biological response of photopolymerizable networks for orthopaedic applications

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Smith, Kathryn Elizabeth
Gall, Ken
Boyan, Barbara D.
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Novel surgical strategies for spinal disc repair are currently being developed that require materials that (1) possess the appropriate mechanical properties to mimic the tissue the material is replacing or repairing and (2) maintain their mechanical function for long durations without negatively affecting the tissue response of adjacent tissue (i.e. bone). Polymers formed through photopolymerization have emerged as candidate biomaterials for many biomedical applications, but these materials possess limited toughness in vivo due to the presence of water inherent in most tissues. Therefore, the overall objective of this research was to develop photopolymerizable (meth)acrylate networks that are both mechanically and biologically compatible under physiological conditions to be implemented in spinal repair procedures. The fundamental approach was to determine structure-property relationships between toughness and network structure in the presence of phosphate buffered saline (PBS) using several model copolymer networks in order to facilitate the design of photopolymerizable networks that are tough in physiological solution. It was demonstrated that networks toughness could be optimized in PBS by tailoring the Tg of the copolymer network close to body temperature and incorporating the appropriate "tough" chemical structures. The ability to maintain toughness up to 9 months in PBS was dependent upon the viscoelastic state and overall hydrophobicity of the network. In tandem, the effect of network chemistry and stiffness on the response of MG63 pre-osteoblast cells was assessed in vitro. The ability of MG63 cells to differentiate on (meth)acrylate network surfaces was found to be primarily dependent on surface chemistry with PEG-based materials promoting a more mature osteoblast phenotype than 2HEMA surfaces. Amongst each copolymer group, copolymer stiffness was found to regulate osteoblast differentiation in a manner dependent upon the surface chemistry. In general, photopolymerizable (meth)acrylate networks that were deemed "tough" were able to promote osteoblast differentiation in a manner comparable if not exceeding that on tissue culture polystyrene (TCPS). This research will impact the field of biomaterials by elucidating the interrelationships between materials science, mechanics, and biology.
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