In this study, poly(dl-lactide-co-glycolide)/porous silicon (PLGA/pSi) composite microspheres, synthesized by a solid-in-oil-in-water (S/O/W) emulsion method, are developed for the long-term controlled delivery of biomolecules for orthopedic tissue engineering applications. Confocal and fluorescent microscopy, together with material analysis, show that each composite microsphere contained multiple pSi particles embedded within the PLGA matrix. The release profiles of fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled bovine serum albumin (FITC-BSA), loaded inside the pSi within the PLGA matrix, indicate that both PLGA and pSi contribute to the control of the release rate of the payload. Protein stability studies show that PLGA/pSi composite can protect BSA from degradation during the long term release. We find that during the degradation of the composite material, the presence of the pSi particles neutralizes the acidic pH due to the PLGA degradation by-products, thus minimizing the risk of inducing inflammatory responses in the exposed cells while stimulating the mineralization in osteogenic growth media. Confocal studies show that the cellular uptake of the composite microspheres is avoided, while the fluorescent payload is detectable intracellularly after 7 days of co-incubation. In conclusion, the PLGA/pSi composite microspheres offer an additional level of controlled release and could be ideal candidates as drug delivery vehicles for orthopedic tissue engineering applications.
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