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Keywords:

  • mechanical properties;
  • morphology;
  • scaffolds;
  • tissue engineering

Abstract

The design and tunability of tissue scaffolds, such as pore size and geometry, is crucial to the success of an engineered tissue replacement. Moreover, the mechanical nature of a tissue scaffold should display properties similar to the tissue of interest; therefore, tunability of the foam mechanical properties is desirable. Polymeric foams prepared using supercritical carbon dioxide as a blowing agent has emerged in recent years as a promising technique to prepare porous scaffolds. While a number of groups have reported on the tailoring of scaffold morphologies by using gas foaming techniques, few have considered the effects of such processing conditions on the physical and mechanical anisotropy achieved. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the tunability of the structure and mechanical anisotropy of foams prepared using a variety of different gas foaming conditions. Porous poly(D,L lactic acid) foams were prepared by the systematic adjustment of processing conditions, namely pressure, temperature and venting time, resulting in an extensive range of scaffold morphologies. Characterization of sample anisotropy was achieved by mechanical evaluation of foam specimens both longitudinal and transverse to the foaming direction. The obtained mechanical properties demonstrated a strong dependence of the processing conditions on mechanical anisotropy and performance. Furthermore, results indicate that factors other than pore geometry may be necessary to define the mechanical behavior of the foam specimens. The favorable compressive moduli, coupled with large degrees of anisotropy, suggests these foams may have suitable application as scaffolds for bone tissue engineering. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part B: Appl Biomater, 2011.