Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Cell Biology


Orthopedics and Physical Rehabilitation

First Thesis Advisor

Jie Song, Ph.D.


Bone Substitutes, Hydrogel, Hydroxyapatites, Bone Transplantation


Injury to bone is one of the most prevalent and costly medical conditions. Clinical treatment of volumetric bone loss or hard-to-heal bony lesions often requires the use of proper bone grafting materials, with or without adjuvant anabolic therapeutics. Despite significant problems associated with autografting (donor site morbidity, limited supplies) and allografting (disease transmissions, high graft failure rates) procedures, synthetic bone grafts remain the least utilized clinically. Existing synthetic orthopaedic biomaterials rarely possess a combination of bone-like structural and biochemical properties required for robust osteointegration, scalable and user-friendly characteristics indispensable for successful clinical translations. This thesis tests the hypothesis that by recapitulating key structural elements and biochemical components of bone in 3- and 2-dimensional biomaterials, scalable synthetic bone grafts can be designed to enable expedited healing of hard-to-heal volumetric bone loss. Specifically, FlexBone, a 3-dimensional hydrogel scaffold encapsulating 50 wt% of structurally well integrated nanocrylstalline hydroxyapatite, the main inorganic component of bone, was developed. The large surface area of nanocrystalline hydroxyapatite combined with its intrinsic affinity to proteins and its excellent structural integration with the hydrogel matrix enabled FlexBone to both sequester endogenous protein signals upon press-fitting into an area of skeletal defect and to deliver exogenous protein therapeutics in a localized and sustained manner. We demonstrated that FlexBone enabled the functional healing of critical-size long bone defects in rats in 8 – 12 weeks with the addition of a very low dose of osteogenic growth factor BMP-2/7. This promising synthetic bone graft is now being explored for the delivery of multiple growth factors to expedite the healing of diabetic bony lesions. In addition, a 2-dimensional electrospun cellulose fibrous mesh was chemically modified with sulfate residues to mimic sulfated polysaccharide ECM components of skeletal tissues to enabled progenitor cell attachment and differentiation as well as controlled retention and localized/sustained delivery of protein therapeutics. This sulfated fibrous mesh is currently explored as synthetic periosteum to augment the osteointegration of devitalized structural allografts. Finally, a rat subcutaneous implantation model developed to examine the biocompatibility of newly developed biodegradable shape memory polymer bone substitutes is also presented.



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