Molecular Modeling and experimental investigation of hydrolytically degradable polymeric biomaterials


Biodegradable polymers are applied in temporary implants, such as surgical sutures and controlled drug delivery systems. They are also of relevance in biomaterial-based Regenerative Therapies, where they provide a temporary substitute of the extra-cellular matrix. A major limitation of established degradable implant materials is the fact, that their degradation behavior can not be reliably predicted applying existing experimental methodologies. Therefore a knowledge-based approach is clearly needed to overcome this problem and to enable the tailored design of biodegradable polymers. Here we describe two methods, which can be applied in this approach: molecular modeling combining atomistic bulk and interface models with quantum chemical studies and experimental investigations of macromolecule degradation in Langmuir monolayers. The polymers utilized to exemplarily illustrate the concepts are aliphatic (co)polyesters [e.g. poly(ε- caprolactone) (PCL), polyglycolide (PGA), poly(rac-lactide) (PDLLA), poly[(rac-lactide)-coglycolide] (PLGA)] and copoly(ether)esteruretanes as multiblock copolymers. The molecular modeling approach permits to efficiently investigate the influence of micro-structural properties like free volume distribution, cohesive energy density and concentration of polar functional groups on the bulk water uptake as one constituent part of hydrolytic degradation. The Langmuir monolayer investigations on polymer degradation on the other hand yield the dynamics of bond splitting during degradation within hours separately from time consuming diffusion processes, which may take months in bulk samples.
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