Electrospun meshes mimic the extracellular matrix, which may improve their integration. We aimed to compare polycaprolactone (PCL) modified with ureidopyrimidinone (UPy) electrospun meshes with ultra-lightweight polypropylene (PP; Restorelle) reference textile meshes for in vivo compliance. We chose UPy-PCL because we have shown it does not compromise biomechanical properties of native tissue, and because it potentially can be bioactivated.
We performed ex vivo biomechanical cyclic loading in wet conditions and in vivo overlay of full-thickness abdominal wall defects in rats and rabbits. Animals were sacrificed at 7, 42 and 54 days (rats; n = 6/group) and 30 and 90 days (rabbits; n = 3/group). Outcomes were herniation, mesh degradation and mesh dimensions, explant compliance and histology. High failure rates prompted us to provide additional material strength by increasing fiber diameter and mesh thickness, which was further tested in rabbits as a biomechanically more challenging model.
Compliance was tested in animals without herniation. In both species, UPy-PCL-explants were as compliant as native tissue. In rats, PP-explants were stiffer. Contraction was similar in UPy-PCL and PP-explants. However, UPy-PCL-meshes macroscopically degraded from 30 days onwards, coinciding with herniation in up to half of animals. Increased fiber and mesh thickness did not improve outcome. Degradation of UPy-PCL is associated with an abundance of foreign body giant cells until UPy-PCL disappears.
Abdominal wall reconstruction with electrospun UPy-PCL meshes failed in 50%. Degradation coincided with a transient vigorous foreign body reaction. Non-failing UPy-PCL-explants were as compliant as native tissue. Despite that, the high failure rate forces us to explore electrospun meshes based on other polymers.
Full Access Link: Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials