In-situ hardening hydroxyapatite-based scaffold for bone repair

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Abstract

Musculoskeletal conditions are becoming a major health concern because of an aging population and sports- and traffic-related injuries. While sintered hydroxyapatite implants require machining, calcium phosphate cement (CPC) bone repair material is moldable, self-hardens in situ, and has excellent osteoconductivity. In the present work, new approaches for developing strong and macroporous scaffolds of CPC were tested. Relationships were determined between scaffold porosity and strength, elastic modulus and fracture toughness. A biocompatible and biodegradable polymer (chitosan) and a water-soluble porogen (mannitol) were incorporated into CPC: Chitosan to make the material stronger, fast-setting and anti-washout; and mannitol to create macropores. Flexural strength, elastic modulus, and fracture toughness were measured as functions of mannitol mass fraction in CPC from 0% to 75%. After mannitol dissolution in a physiological solution, macropores were formed in CPC in the shapes of the original entrapped mannitol crystals, with diameters of 50 μm to 200 μm for cell infiltration and bone ingrowth. The resulting porosity in CPC ranged from 34.4% to 83.3% volume fraction. At 70.2% porosity, the hydroxyapatite scaffold possessed flexural strength (mean ± sd; n = 6) of (2.5 ± 0.2) MPa and elastic modulus of (0.71 ± 0.10) GPa. These values were within the range for sintered porous hydroxyapatite and cancellous bone. Predictive equations were established by regression power-law fitting to the measured data (R2 > 0.98) that described the relationships between scaffold porosity and strength, elastic modulus and fracture toughness. In conclusion, a new graft composition was developed that could be delivered during surgery in the form of a paste to harden in situ in the bone site to form macroporous hydroxyapatite. Compared to conventional CPC without macropores, the increased macroporosity of the new apatite scaffold may help facilitate implant fixation and tissue ingrowth.