Tough and strong porous bioactive glass-PLA composites for structural bone repair
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Bioactive glass scaffolds have been used to heal small contained bone defects, but their application to repairing structural bone is limited by concerns about their mechanical reliability. In the present study, the addition of an adherent polymer layer to the external surface of strong porous bioactive glass (13–93) scaffolds was investigated to improve their toughness. Finite element modeling (FEM) of the flexural mechanical response of beams composed of a porous glass and an adherent polymer layer predicted a reduction in the tensile stress in the glass with increasing thickness and elastic modulus of the polymer layer. Mechanical testing of composites with structures similar to the models, formed from 13–93 glass and polylactic acid (PLA), showed trends predicted by the FEM simulations, but the observed effects were considerably more dramatic. A PLA layer of thickness ~400 μm, equal to ~12.5% of the scaffold thickness, increased the load-bearing capacity of the scaffold in four-point bending by ~50%. The work of fracture increased by more than 10000%, resulting in a non-brittle mechanical response. These bioactive glass-PLA composites, combining bioactivity, high strength, high work of fracture and an internal architecture shown to be conducive to bone infiltration, could provide optimal implants for healing structural bone defects.
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