Strontium eluting graphene hybrid nanoparticles augment osteogenesis in a 3D tissue scaffold†
The objective of this work was to prepare hybrid nanoparticles of graphene sheets decorated with strontium metallic nanoparticles and demonstrate their advantages in bone tissue engineering. Strontium-decorated reduced graphene oxide (RGO_Sr) hybrid nanoparticles were synthesized by the facile reduction of graphene oxide and strontium nitrate. X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy revealed that the hybrid particles were composed of RGO sheets decorated with 200–300 nm metallic strontium particles. Thermal gravimetric analysis further confirmed the composition of the hybrid particles as 22 wt% of strontium. Macroporous tissue scaffolds were prepared by incorporating RGO_Sr particles in poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL). The PCL/RGO_Sr scaffolds were found to elute strontium ions in aqueous medium. Osteoblast proliferation and differentiation was significantly higher in the PCL scaffolds containing the RGO_Sr particles in contrast to neat PCL and PCL/RGO scaffolds. The increased biological activity can be attributed to the release of strontium ions from the hybrid nanoparticles. This study demonstrates that composites prepared using hybrid nanoparticles that elute strontium ions can be used to prepare multifunctional scaffolds with good mechanical and osteoinductive properties. These findings have important implications for designing the next generation of biomaterials for use in tissue regeneration.