Shape memory polymer (SMP) scaffolds with improved self-fitting properties†
“Self-fitting” shape memory polymer (SMP) scaffolds prepared as semi-interpenetrating networks (semi-IPNs) with crosslinked linear-poly(ε-caprolactone)-diacrylate (PCL-DA, Mn ∼10 kg mol−1) and linear-poly(L-lactic acid) (PLLA, Mn ∼15 kg mol−1) [75/25 wt%] exhibited robust mechanical properties and accelerated degradation rates versus a PCL-DA scaffold control. However, their potential to treat irregular craniomaxillofacial (CMF) bone defects is limited by their relatively high fitting temperature (Tfit ∼55 °C; related to the Tm of PCL) required for shape recovery (i.e. expansion) and subsequent shape fixation during press fitting of the scaffold, which can be harmful to surrounding tissue. Additionally, the viscosity of the solvent-based precursor solutions, cast over a fused salt template during fabrication, can limit scaffold size. Thus, in this work, analogous semi-IPN SMP scaffolds were formed with a 4-arm star-PCL-tetracryalate (star-PCL-TA) (Mn ∼10 kg mol−1) and star-PLLA (Mn ∼15 kg mol−1). To assess the impact of a star-polymer architecture, four semi-IPN compositions were prepared: linear-PCL-DA/linear-PLLA (L/L), linear-PCL-DA/star-PLLA (L/S), star-PCL-TA/linear-PLLA (S/L) and star-PCL-TA/star-PLLA (S/S). Two PCL controls were also prepared: LPCL (i.e. 100% linear-PCL-DA) and SPCL (i.e. 100% star-PCL-TA). The S/S semi-IPN scaffold exhibited particularly desirable properties. In addition to achieving a lower, tissue-safe Tfit (∼45 °C), it exhibited the fastest rate of degradation which is anticipated to more favourably permit neotissue infiltration. The radial expansion pressure exerted by the S/S semi-IPN scaffold at Tfit was greater than that of LPCL, which is expected to enhance osseointegration and mechanical stability. The intrinsic viscosity of the S/S semi-IPN macromer solution was also reduced such that larger scaffold specimens could be prepared.
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