Biomechanically Tunable Nano-Silica/P-HEMA Structural Hydrogels for Bone Scaffolding
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Innovative tissue engineering biomimetic hydrogels based on hydrophilic polymers have been investigated for their physical and mechanical properties. 5% to 25% by volume loading PHEMA-nanosilica glassy hybrid samples were equilibrated at 37 °C in aqueous physiological isotonic and hypotonic saline solutions (0.15 and
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Innovative tissue engineering biomimetic hydrogels based on hydrophilic polymers have been investigated for their physical and mechanical properties. 5% to 25% by volume loading PHEMA-nanosilica glassy hybrid samples were equilibrated at 37 °C in aqueous physiological isotonic and hypotonic saline solutions (0.15 and 0.05 M NaCl) simulating two limiting possible compositions of physiological extracellular fluids. The glassy and hydrated hybrid materials were characterized by both dynamo-mechanical properties and equilibrium absorptions in the two physiological-like aqueous solutions. The mechanical and morphological modifications occurring in the samples have been described. The 5% volume nanosilica loading hybrid nanocomposite composition showed mechanical characteristics in the dry and hydrated states that were comparable to those of cortical bone and articular cartilage, respectively, and then chosen for further sorption kinetics characterization. Sorption and swelling kinetics were monitored up to equilibrium. Changes in water activities and osmotic pressures in the water-hybrid systems equilibrated at the two limiting solute molarities of the physiological solutions have been related to the observed anomalous sorption modes using the Flory-Huggins interaction parameter approach. The bulk modulus of the dry and glassy PHEMA-5% nanosilica hybrid at 37 °C has been observed to be comparable with the values of the osmotic pressures generated from the sorption of isotonic and hypotonic solutions. The anomalous sorption modes and swelling rates are coherent with the difference between osmotic swelling pressures and hybrid glassy nano-composite bulk modulus: the lower the differences the higher the swelling rate and equilibrium solution uptakes. Bone tissue engineering benefits of the use of tuneable biomimetic scaffold biomaterials that can be “designed” to act as biocompatible and biomechanically active hybrid interfaces are discussed.