The design of injectable biomaterials has attracted considerable attention in recent years. Many injectable biomaterials, such as hydrogels and calcium phosphate cements (CPCs), have nanoscale pores that limit the rate of cellular migration and proliferation. While introduction of macroporosity has been suggested to increase cellular infiltration and tissue healing, many conventional methods for generating macropores often require harsh processing conditions that preclude their use in injectable foams. In recent years, processes such as porogen leaching, gas foaming, and emulsion-templating have been adapted to generate macroporosity in injectable CPCs, hydrogels, and hydrophobic polymers. While some of the more mature injectable foam technologies have been evaluated in clinical trials, there are challenges remaining to be addressed, such as the biocompatibility and ultimate fate of the sacrificial phase used to generate pores within the foam after it sets in situ. Furthermore, while implantable scaffolds can be washed extensively to remove undesirable impurities, all of the components required to synthesize injectable foams must be injected into the defect. Thus, every compound in the foam must be biocompatible and noncytotoxic at the concentrations utilized. As future research addresses these critical challenges, injectable macroporous foams are anticipated to have an increasingly significant impact on improving patient outcomes for a number of clinical procedures.
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Conflict of interest: Vanderbilt University has licensed the injectable polyurethane foam technology co-invented by the authors (E.M.P., A.J.H., and S.A.G.) and reviewed in this article to Medtronic Sofamor Danek (Memphis, TN). The authors are collaborating with Medtronic on commercial development of the technology as an injectable and settable bone void filler.