Balancing mechanical strength with bioactivity in chitosan–calcium phosphate 3D microsphere scaffolds for bone tissue engineering: air- vs. freeze-drying processes


D.T. Nguyen, J.D. McCanless, M.M. Mecwan, A.P. Noblett, W.O. Haggard, R.A. Smith & J.D. Bumgardner


The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential benefit of 3D composite scaffolds composed of chitosan and calcium phosphate for bone tissue engineering. Additionally, incorporation of mechanically weak lyophilized microspheres within those air-dried (AD) was considered for enhanced bioactivity. AD microsphere, alone, and air- and freeze-dried microsphere (FDAD) 3D scaffolds were evaluated in vitro using a 28-day osteogenic culture model with the Saos-2 cell line. Mechanical testing, quantitative microscopy, and lysozyme-driven enzymatic degradation of the scaffolds were also studied. FDAD scaffold showed a higher concentration (p < 0.01) in cells per scaffold mass vs. AD constructs. Collagen was 31% greater (p < 0.01) on FDAD compared to AD scaffolds not evident in microscopy of microsphere surfaces. Alternatively, AD scaffolds demonstrated a superior threefold increase in compressive strength over FDAD (12 vs. 4 MPa) with minimal degradation. Inclusion of FD spheres within the FDAD scaffolds allowed increased cellular activity through improved seeding, proliferation, and extracellular matrix production (as collagen), although mechanical strength was sacrificed through introduction of the less stiff, porous FD spheres.

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