To date, biodegradable networks and particularly their kinetic chain lengths have been characterized by analysis of their degradation products in solution. We characterize the network itself by NMR analysis in the solvent-swollen state under magic angle spinning conditions. The networks were prepared by photoinitiated cross-linking of poly(dl-lactide)−dimethacrylate macromers (5 kg/mol) in the presence of an unreactive diluent. Using diffusion filtering and 2D correlation spectroscopy techniques, all network components are identified. By quantification of network-bound photoinitiator fragments, an average kinetic chain length of 9 ± 2 methacrylate units is determined. The PDLLA macromer solution was also used with a dye to prepare computer-designed structures by stereolithography. For these networks structures, the average kinetic chain length is 24 ± 4 methacrylate units. In all cases the calculated molecular weights of the polymethacrylate chains after degradation are maximally 8.8 kg/mol, which is far below the threshold for renal clearance. Upon incubation in phosphate buffered saline at 37 °C, the networks show a similar mass loss profile in time as linear high-molecular-weight PDLLA (HMW PDLLA). The mechanical properties are preserved longer for the PDLLA networks than for HMW PDLLA. The initial tensile strength of 47 ± 2 MPa does not decrease significantly for the first 15 weeks, while HMW PDLLA lost 85 ± 5% of its strength within 5 weeks. The physical properties, kinetic chain length, and degradation profile of these photo-cross-linked PDLLA networks make them most suited materials for orthopedic applications and use in (bone) tissue engineering.
- EC Grant Agreement nr.: FP6/500465