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Keywords:

  • carbon nanotubes;
  • composite;
  • collagen;
  • fibroblast;
  • nanoparticle;
  • pluronic

Abstract

Composites of extracellular matrix proteins reinforced with carbon nanotubes have the potential to be used as conductive biopolymers in a variety of biomaterial applications. In this study, the effect of functionalization and polymer wrapping on the dispersion of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) in aqueous media was examined. Carboxylated MWCNT were wrapped in either Pluronic® F127 or gelatin. Raman spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy showed that covalent functionalization of the pristine nanotubes disrupted the carbon lattice and added carboxyl groups. Polymer and gelatin wrapping resulted in increased surface adsorbed oxygen and nitrogen, respectively. Wrapping also markedly increased the stability of MWCNT suspensions in water as measured by settling time and zeta potential, with Pluronic®-wrapped nanotubes showing the greatest effect. Treated MWCNT were used to make 3D collagen–fibrin–MWCNT composite materials. Carboxylated MWCNT resulted in a decrease in construct impedance by an order of magnitude, and wrapping with Pluronic® resulted in a further order of magnitude decrease. Functionalization and wrapping also were associated with maintenance of fibroblast function within protein–MWCNT materials. These data show that increased dispersion of nanotubes in protein–MWCNT composites leads to higher conductivity and improved cytocompatibility. Understanding how nanotubes interact with biological systems is important in enabling the development of new biomedical technologies. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 101A:231–238, 2013.