Today a paper from our collaborators at the University of Newcastle has just been released for viewing online. This is written by Priscila Melo from the Dalgarno research group, and features the contributions of Dr Thomas Swift to characterise the materials.
The clinical application of composites seeks to exploit the mechanical and chemical properties of materials which make up the composite, and in researching polymer composites for biomedical applications the aim is usually to enhance the bioactivity of the polymer, while maintaining the mechanical properties. To that end, in this study medical grade Poly(L-lactic) acid (PLLA) has been reinforced with short phosphate-based glass fibers (PGF). The materials were initially mixed by melting PLLA granules with the short fibers, before being extruded to form a homogenous filament, which was pelletized and used as feedstock for compression moulding. As made the composite materials had a bending strength of 51 MPa ± 5, and over the course of eight weeks in PBS the average strength of the composite material was in the range 20–50 MPa. Human mesenchymal stromal cells were cultured on the surfaces of scaffolds, and the metabolic activity, alkaline phosphatase production and mineralization monitored over a three week period. The short fiber filler made no significant difference to cell proliferation or differentiation, but had a clear and immediate osteoinductive effect, promoting mineralization by cells at the material surface. It is concluded that the PLLA/PGF composite material offers a material with both the mechanical and biological properties for potential application to bone implants and fixation, particularly where an osteoinductive effect would be valuable.