Published: January-1 2022
New composite 3D scaffolds were developed as a combination of synthetic polymer, poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (PHEMA), and a natural polymer, gelatin, with a ceramic component, nanohydroxyapatite (ID nHAp) dopped with metal ions. The combination of a synthetic polymer, to be able to tune the structure and the physicochemical and mechanical properties, and a natural polymer, to ensure the specific biological functions of the scaffold, with inorganic filler was applied. The goal was to make a new material with superior properties for applications in the biomedical field which mimics as closely as possible the native bone extracellular matrix (ECM). Biodegradable PHEMA hydrogel was obtained by crosslinking HEMA by poly(β-amino esters) (PBAE). The scaffold’s physicochemical and mechanical properties, in vitro degradation, and biological activity were assessed so to study the effects of the incorporation of nHAp in the (PHEMA/PBAE/gelatin) hydrogel, as well as the effect of the different pore-forming methods. Cryogels had higher elasticity, swelling, porosity, and percent of mass loss during degradation than the samples obtained by porogenation. The composite scaffolds had a higher mechanical strength, 10.14 MPa for the porogenated samples and 5.87 MPa for the cryogels, but a slightly lower degree of swelling, percent of mass loss, and porosity than the hybrid ones. All the scaffolds were nontoxic and had a high cell adhesion rate, which was 15–20% higher in the composite samples. Cell metabolic activity after 2 and 7 days of culture was higher in the composites, although not statistically different. After 28 days, cell metabolic activity was similar in all scaffolds and the TCP control. No effect of integrating nHAp into the scaffolds on osteogenic cell differentiation could be observed. Synergetic effects occurred which influenced the mechanical behavior, structure, physicochemical properties, and interactions with biological species.
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