Development of bone-like composites via the polymer-induced liquid-precursor (PILP) process. Part 1: Influence of polymer molecular weight
Bone is an organic-inorganic composite consisting primarily of collagen fibrils and hydroxyapatite crystals intricately interlocked to provide skeletal and metabolic functions. Non-collagenous proteins (NCPs) are also present, and although only a minor component, the NCPs are thought to play an important role in modulating the mineralization process. During secondary bone formation, an interpenetrating structure is created by intrafibrillar mineralization of the collagen matrix. Many researchers have tried to develop bone-like collagen-hydroxyapatite (HA) composites via the conventional crystallization process of nucleation and growth. While those methods have been successful in inducing heterogeneous nucleation of HA on the surface of collagen scaffolds, they have failed to produce a composite with the interpenetrating nanostructured architecture of bone. Our group has shown that intrafibrillar mineralization of type I collagen can be achieved using a polymer-induced liquid-precursor (PILP) process. In this process, acidic polypeptides are included in the mineralization solution to mimic the function of the acidic NCPs, and in vitro studies have found that acidic peptides such as polyaspartate induce a liquid-phase amorphous mineral precursor. Using this PILP process, we have been able to prepare collagen-HA composites with the fundamental nanostructure of bone, wherein HA nanocrystals are embedded within the collagen fibrils. This study shows that through further optimization a very high degree of mineralization can be achieved, with compositions matching that of bone. Synthetic collagen sponges were mineralized with calcium phosphate while analyzing various parameters of the reaction, with the focus of this report on the molecular weight of the polymeric process-directing agent. In order to determine whether intrafibrillar mineralization was achieved, an in-depth characterization of the mineralized composites was performed, including wide-angle X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy and thermogravimetric analyses. The results of this work lead us closer to the development of bone-like collagen-HA composites that could become the next generation of synthetic bone grafts.
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