A silk-based high impact composite for the core decompression of the femoral head†
Core decompression of the femoral head is a recommended head-conserving strategy for early-stage osteonecrosis of the femoral head. However, no ideal filling material has been found so far. In this study, we fabricated a “solid core-porous coating” composite scaffold, which is a silk fibroin/hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (SF/HPMC) scaffold, by a “two-step” process. The solid core scaffold possesses a sufficient compression modulus (860 MPa) for support, while the porous coating scaffold with controllable pore size and porosity provides a suitable microenvironment for the osteoblast cell to adhere and proliferate. Moreover, the porous coating scaffold was mineralized by adding different contents of hydroxyapatite crystal to further enhance its osteoinductivity, according to the simulated body fluid (SBF) biomineralization assay. To demonstrate the biocompatibility and osteoinductivity of such composite scaffolds, a series of in vitro experiments were performed, indicating the MC3T3-E1 pre-osteoblast cells grew and differentiated well on the mineralized porous coating scaffolds. The mechanical testing results also proved that the mechanical property of the solid core scaffold varied (230–1600 MPa) with different solid contents of SF/HPMC, as expected. Furthermore, the rabbit femoral head core decompression model was adopted and confirmed the excellent mechanical performance of the solid core scaffolds, as well as the satisfied osteoinductivity of the porous coating scaffold, by inserting the composite scaffolds into the bone tunnel in vivo. All of the preliminary results implied that the novel biodegradable composite scaffold has an outstanding prospective for the clinical use of core decompression of the femoral head.