In the current study, oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF)-based hydrogels were tested for the first time as injectable bone substitute materials. The primary feature of the material design was the incorporation of calcium phosphate (CaP) nanoparticles within the polymeric matrix in order to compare the soft tissue response and bone forming capacity of plain OPF hydrogels with CaP-enriched OPF hydrogel composites. To that end, pre-set scaffolds were implanted subcutaneously, whereas flowable polymeric precursor solutions were injected in a tibial ablation model in guinea pigs. After 8 weeks of implantation, histological and histomorphometrical evaluation of the subcutaneous scaffolds confirmed the biocompatibility of both types of hydrogels. Nevertheless, OPF hydrogels presented a loose structure, massive cellular infiltration and extensive material degradation compared to OPF-CaP hydrogels that were more compact. MicroCT, histological and histomorphometrical analyses showed comparable amount of new trabecular bone in all tibias and some material remnants in the medial and distal regions. Particularly, highly calcified areas were observed in the distal region of OPF-CaP treated tibias. These results indicate that CaP nanoparticles agglomerated and left sediment, resulting into a heterogeneous distribution of the mineral phase throughout the hydrogel matrix. This phenomenon can be attributed to either hindered gelation under highly perfused in vivo conditions or a faster degradation rate of the polymeric hydrogel matrix compared to the nanostructured mineral phase resulting into loss of entrapment of the CaP nanoparticles and subsequent sedimentation.
Bongio, M., van den Beucken, J., Nejadnik, M. R., Tahmasebi Birgani, Z., Habibovic, P., Kinard, L. A., ... Jansen, J. A. (2013). Subcutaneous tissue response and osteogenic performance of calcium phosphate nanoparticle-enriched hydrogels in the tibial medullary cavity of guinea pigs. Acta biomaterialia, 9(3), 5464-5474. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actbio.2012.10.026