Bone tissue regeneration remains an important challenge in the field of orthopaedic and craniofacial surgery and sees a transplantation frequency second to that of blood. The total number of bone graft surgeries performed each year worldwide to repair bone defects in orthopaedics and dentistry is more than 2.2 million. Current clinical treatments for critical-size defects are challenging, and despite the natural capacity of bone for healing, if an injury is beyond a critical limit (critical size defect), it cannot heal by regeneration. Bone grafting is the current standard treatment; however, given the inherent limitations of this approach, bone tissue engineering and advanced biomaterials that mimic the structure and function of native tissues hold potential as a promising alternative strategy. Nanocomposites containing hydroxyapatite have attracted attention as they are structurally similar to natural bone and provide an osteoconductive matrix to which bone can react with ‘bone’. However, nanocomposites do very little to assist in the recruitment of host cells to assist in bone repair. To circumnavigate this issue, we propose the incorporation of piezoelectric nanofibres to promote guided cellular infiltration. At sites of bone fracture, naturally-occurring electric fields exist during healing which promote cell migration and may become perturbed at sites of critical bone defects. Our aim is to develop a novel hybrid material that consists of a biodegradable bioactive hydrogel network containing hydroxyapatite nanoparticles and PVDF(TrFE) nanofibres to produce a scaffold with mechanical and electrical properties akin to bone. In this study, the hybrid material will be fully characterised pertaining to its morphology, chemical composition, mechanical stability and piezoelectric response. Cells will be encapsulated within the hybrid material and viability and cytoperformance studies conducted as well as assessment of the materials innate osteoconductive properties.
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