Engineering Bioactive And Multifunctional Graphene Polymer Composites for Bone Tissue Regeneration
The growing incidences of orthopedic problems globally have created a huge demand for strong bioactive materials for bone tissue engineering. Over the years, studies have shown chemical, physical, and mechanical properties of biomaterials influence the cellular interactions at the material-tissue interface, which subsequently controls biological response to materials. Strong biomaterials with surface properties that actively direct cellular response hold the key for engineering the next generation orthopedic implants. With its unique properties graphene can be used to reinforce poly (ε-caprolactone) (PCL) to prepare strong and bioactive polymer nanocomposites for bone tissue regeneration. The thesis entitled ―Engineering bioactive and multifunctional graphene polymer composites for bone tissue regeneration” systematically studies the effect of different chemically functionalized and metal-graphene hybrid nanoparticles in PCL composites for bone tissue engineering. The thesis comprises of seven chapters. Chapter 1 is an outline review on the impact of graphene and graphene derived particles to prepare supporting substrates for tissue regeneration and the associated cell response to multifunctional graphene substrate. This chapter discusses how cells interact with different graphene based particles and the interplay between cells performance and multifunctional properties of graphene based substrates. Chapter 2 describes the role, if any, of the functionalization of graphene on mechanical properties, stem cell response and bacterial biofilm formation. PCL composites of graphene oxide (GO), reduced GO (RGO) and amine-functionalized GO (AGO) were prepared at different filler contents (1%, 3% and 5%). Although the addition of the nanoparticles to PCL markedly increased the storage modulus, this increase was higher for GO and AGO than with RGO. In vitro cell studies revealed that the AGO and GO particles significantly increased human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) proliferation. AGO was most effective in augmenting stem cell osteogenesis leading to mineralization. Bacterial studies revealed that interaction with functionalized GO induced bacterial cell death due to membrane damage which was further accentuated by amine groups in AGO. The synergistic effect of oxygen containing functional groups and amine groups on AGO-reinforced composites renders the optimal combination of improved modulus, favorable stem cell response and biofilm inhibition desired for orthopaedic applications. In Chapter 3, toward preparing strong multi-biofunctional materials, poly(ethylenimine) (PEI) conjugated graphene oxide (GO_PEI) was synthesized using poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) as spacer and incorporated in PCL at different fractions. GO_PEI significantly promoted proliferation and formation of focal adhesions in hMSCs on PCL. GO_PEI was highly potent in inducing stem cell osteogenesis leading to 90% increase in alkaline phosphatase activity and mineralization over neat PCL with 5% filler content and was 50% better than GO. Remarkably, 5% GO_PEI was as potent as soluble osteo-inductive factors. Increased adsorption of osteogenic factors due to the amine and oxygen containing functional groups on GO_PEI augment stem cell differentiation. GO_PEI was also highly efficient in imparting bactericidal activity with 85% reduction in counts of E. coli colonies compared to neat PCL at 5% filler content and was more than twice as efficient as GO. This may be attributed to the synergistic effect of the sharp edges of the particles along with the presence of the different chemical moieties. Thus, in contrast to using labile biomolecules, GO_PEI based polymer composites can be utilized to prepare bioactive resorbable biomaterials for fabricating orthopedic devices for fracture fixation and tissue engineering. Chapter 4 describes the preparation of hybrid nanoparticles of graphene sheets decorated with strontium metallic nanoparticles and its advantages in bone tissue engineering. Strontium-decorated reduced graphene oxide (RGO_Sr) nanoparticles were synthesized by 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 incorporating RGO_Sr particles in 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 scaffolds with osteoinductive property. These findings have important implications for designing the next generation of biomaterials for use in tissue regeneration. Chapter 5 discusses the use of hybrid graphene-silver particles (RGO_Ag) to reinforce PCL and compared with PCL/RGO and PCL/Ag composites containing RGO and silver nanoparticles (AgNPs), respectively. RGO_Ag hybrid particles were well dispersed in the PCL matrix unlike the RGO and AgNPs due to enhanced exfoliation. RGO_Ag led to 77 % increase in the modulus of PCL and provided a conductive network for electron transfer. Electrical conductivity increased four orders of magnitude from 10-11 S/cm to 10-7 S/cm at 5 wt % filler that greatly exceeded the improvements with the use of RGO and AgNP in PCL. RGO_Ag particles reinforced in PCL showed sustained release of silver ions from the PCL matrix unlike the burst release from PCL/Ag. PCL/RGO_Ag and PCL/RGO composites were non-toxic to hMSCs and supported osteogenic differentiation unlike the PCL/Ag composites which were highly toxic at ≥3% filler content. The PCL/RGO_Ag composites exhibited good antibacterial effect due to a combination of silver ion release from the AgNPs and the mechanical rupture induced by the RGO in the hybrid nanoparticles. Thus, the synergistic effect of Ag and RGO in the PCL matrix uniquely yielded a multifunctional material for use in implantable biomedical devices and tissue engineering. Chapter 6 presents investigation of potential differences in the biological response to graphene in polymer composites in the form of 2D substrates and 3D scaffolds. Results showed that osteoblast response to graphene in polymer nanocomposites is markedly altered between 2D substrates and 3D scaffold due to the roughness induced by the sharp edges of graphene at the surface in 3D but not in 2D. Osteoblast organized into aggregates in 3D scaffolds in contrast to more well spread and randomly distributed cells on 2D discs due to the macro-porous architecture of the scaffolds. Increased cell-cell contact and altered cellular morphology led to significantly higher mineralization in 3D scaffolds compared to 2D. This study demonstrates that the cellular response to nanoparticles in composites can change markedly by varying the processing route. Chapter 7 summarizes the important results and future directions of the work. This chapter provides general conclusions arising from this study, and makes suggestions for future work designed to provide a greater understanding of the in vivo response in terms of bio-distribution of the released functionalized graphene from the scaffold or substrate must be assessed with special attention on their accumulation or excretion.
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