January 4, 2011

1 Min Read
Copolymers Mimic Extracellular Matrix of Bone for Enhanced Tissue Scaffolds

Optimized for use in tissue scaffolds, copolymers developed by researchers at the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering mimic the mechanical properties, surface chemistry, and porosity of the extracellular matrix of human bone. As a result, these characteristics of the material could potentially encourage more successful tissue formation on the scaffolds.

To achieve these desirable characteristics, the researchers modified the biocompatible, biodegradable material polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), which is produced by bacteria. By incorporating polyethylene glycol (PEG) into the PHB backbone, the scientists were able to alter the naturally brittle and hydrophobic PHB material to exhibit hydrophilicity and ductility; testing revealed that the copolymers could be strained up to 20 times their original length. The resulting copolymer fibers were then woven into porous structures via an electrospinning process.

When immersed into simulated body fluid, the copolymer-based porous scaffold was able to absorb salts and undergo mineralization without surface modification, according to the researchers. This capability, they say, facilitates the formation of an extracellular matrix comparable to that of natural bone.

"Scaffolds made using the new PHB-PEG copolymer may become useful for bone generation, and hence improve the quality of life of osteoporosis patients," says Li Xu, an A*STAR researcher involved with the project.

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