Bone tissue engineering is a new research area with clinical applications in the replacement of diseased or damaged bone tissues. The challenge of tissue engineering is to develop a suitable bone scaffold with sufficient porosity and mechanical strength to allow a good integration with the surrounding tissues. Bioactive resorbable scaffolds that combine the characteristics of materials for bone tissue engineering with the one of drug delivery systems, are an innovative approach in materials engineering field. By implantation of these materials in the desired body location, they will release the therapeutic agent, improving the efficiency of the clinical treatment. Due to their bioactivity, they can be used as bone substitute, increasing the bone integration (osteointegration). Due to their biodegradation, they can control the kinetics releasing of the active agent. The scaffold porosity controls the amount of the therapeutic agent that can be incorporated. Therefore, the aim of this project is the development, characterisation and in vitro experimentation of novel macroporous scaffolds with highly interconnected porosity and controlled biodegradability for drug delivery in bone tissue engineering. Optimisation of the scaffold structure is essential to achieve both adequate mechanical and biological response in clinical applications. The macro and microstructure of the porous scaffolds will be investigated. Cell culturing experiments will be carried out to assess the biological behaviour of these materials. The scaffold surface will be functionalized in order to bind specific macromolecules (proteins, antibiotics, growth factors etc.) for drug delivery. The dependence of the drug delivery profiles on the scaffold biodegradation will be studied in vitro. We expect that these innovative materials will be useful as delivery systems for cells and biological molecules in bone tissue engineering applications.
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