Melt-processable hydrophobic acrylonitrile-based copolymer systems with adjustable elastic properties designed for biomedical applications


Acrylonitrile-based polymer systems (PAN) are comprehensively explored as versatile biomaterials having various potential biomedical applications, such as membranes for extra corporal devices or matrixes for guided skin reconstruction. The surface properties (e.g. hydrophilicity or charges) of such materials can be tailored over a wide range by variation of molecular parameters such as different co-monomers or their sequence structure. Some of these materials show interesting biofunctionalities such as capability for selective cell cultivation. So far, the majority of AN-based copolymers, which were investigated in physiological environments, were processed from the solution (e.g. membranes), as these materials are thermo-sensitive and might degrade when heated. In this work we aimed at the synthesis of hydrophobic, melt-processable AN-based copolymers with adjustable elastic properties for preparation of model scaffolds with controlled pore geometry and size. For this purpose a series of copolymers from acrylonitrile and n-butyl acrylate (nBA) was synthesized via free radical copolymerisation technique. The content of nBA in the copolymer varied from 45 wt% to 70 wt%, which was confirmed by 1H-NMR spectroscopy. The glass transition temperatures (Tg) of the P(AN-co-nBA) copolymers determined by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) decreased from 58°C to 20°C with increasing nBA-content, which was in excellent agreement with the prediction of the Gordon-Taylor equation based on the Tgs of the homopolymers. The Young’s modulus obtained in tensile tests was found to decrease significantly with rising nBA-content from 1062 MPa to 1.2 MPa. All copolymers could be successfully processed from the melt with processing temperatures ranging from 50°C to 170°C, whereby thermally induced decomposition was only observed at temperatures higher than 320°C in thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA). Finally, the melt processed P(AN-co-nBA) biomaterials were sterilized with ethylene oxide and tested for cytotoxicity in direct contact tests with L929 cells according to the EN DIN ISO standard 10993-5. All tested samples exhibited non-toxic effects on the functional integrity of the cell membrane and the mitochondrial activity. However, the morphology of the cells on the samples was different from that observed on polystyrene as control, indicating slightly cytotoxic effects according to the evaluation guide of the US Pharmacopeial Convention. Thus, the melt-processable, hydrophobic P(AN-co-nBA) copolymers with adjustable mechanical properties are promising candidates for in vitro investigations of tissue growth kinetics.
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