• functionalization of polymers;
  • molecular imprinting;
  • peptides


Biomimetic materials for application in the field of tissue engineering are usually obtained through covalent bonding between the polymer backbone and the bioactive molecules. A totally new approach, proposed for the first time by our research group, for the creation of advanced synthetic support structures for cell adhesion and proliferation is represented by molecular imprinting (MI) technology. In this article, we describe the synthesis and characterization of molecularly imprinted polymers with recognition properties toward a fibronectin peptide sequence and their application as functionalization structures. Polymers, in the form of densely fused microgel particles, were obtained by precipitation polymerization. The imprinted particles showed good performance in terms of recognition capacity and quantitative rebinding; moreover, the epitope effect was observed, with the particles able to recognize and rebind not only the specific peptide sequence but also a larger fibronectin fragment. The cytotoxicity tests showed normal vitality in C2C12 myoblasts cultured in a medium that was put in contact with the imprinted particles. Therefore, imprinted particles were used to functionalize synthetic polymeric films by deposition on their surface. The deposition of the imprinted particles did not alter their specific recognition and rebinding behavior. The most remarkable result was obtained by the biological characterization: in fact, the functionalized materials appeared able to promote cell adhesion and proliferation. These results are very promising and suggest that MI can be used as an innovative functionalization technique to prepare bioactive scaffolds with an effective capacity for improving tissue regeneration. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2010