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Progress and challenges in biomaterials used for bone tissue engineering: bioactive glasses and elastomeric composites

Abstract

Driven by the increasing economic burden associated with bone injury and disease, biomaterial development for bone repair represents the most active research area in the field of tissue engineering. This article provides an update on recent advances in the development of bioactive biomaterials for bone regeneration. Special attention is paid to the recent developments of sintered Na-containing bioactive glasses, borate-based bioactive glasses, those doped with trace elements (such as Cu, Zn, and Sr), and novel elastomeric composites. Although bioactive glasses are not new to bone tissue engineering, their tunable mechanical properties, biodegradation rates, and ability to support bone and vascular tissue regeneration, as well as osteoblast differentiation from stem and progenitor cells, are superior to other bioceramics. Recent progresses on the development of borate bioactive glasses and trace element-doped bioactive glasses expand the repertoire of bioactive glasses. Although boride and other trace elements have beneficial effects on bone remodeling and/or associated angiogenesis, the risk of toxicity at high levels must be highly regarded in the design of new composition of bioactive biomaterials so that the release of these elements must be satisfactorily lower than their biologically safe levels. Elastomeric composites are superior to the more commonly used thermoplastic-matrix composites, owing to the well-defined elastic properties of elastomers which are ideal for the replacement of collagen, a key elastic protein within the bone tissue. Artificial bone matrix made from elastomeric composites can, therefore, offer both sound mechanical integrity and flexibility in the dynamic environment of injured bone.