Metallic materials widely used in orthopedic applications have much stronger mechanical properties (such as elastic modulus) than natural bone, which can weaken the newly formed bone interface due to stress-shielding. Because natural bone is under continuous physiological stresses (such as compression, tension, torsion, and/or bending), the mechanical properties of orthopedic implant materials should closely match those of living bone. This is necessary to minimize stress and strain imbalances during physiological loading conditions which will lead to implant failure. The objective of the present study was to characterize the mechanical properties of PLGA with well-dispersed nanophase titania. The dispersion of titania in PLGA was controlled by sonication and was characterized by field emission scanning electron microscopy and image analysis. For this purpose, two major stresses (compression and tension) that natural bone experiences under physiological loading conditions were characterized using an Instron Material Testing System. The results showed that nano-dispersed titania particles in PLGA increased the compressive and tensile modulus of such scaffolds compared to pure PLGA scaffolds and the more agglomerated ceramics in PLGA scaffolds. The mechanisms behind these results were also speculated. Since the predominant feature of nano-particles lies in their ultra-fine dimension, a large fraction of filler atoms can reside at the PLGA-ceramic interface which can lead to a stronger interfacial interaction, but only if the nano-particles are well dispersed at the nanometer level in the surrounding polymer matrix. As the interfacial PLGA-ceramic structure plays a critical role in determining the mechanical properties of composites, nano-composites with a great number of smaller interfaces could be expected to provide unusual properties, and the shortcomings induced by the heterogeneity of conventional (or micron) particle filled composites would also be avoided. Therefore, coupled with prior studies demonstrating greater osteoblast functions, the combination of PLGA with a strong and biocompatible well-dispersed nano-ceramic phase may provide better candidate materials for orthopedic applications.
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