Synthesis of functional lactide copolymers for use in biomedical applications
Noga, David Edward
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The biocompatibility and biodegradability of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) facilitate its use in a variety of biomedical applications, ranging from sutures to drug delivery. However, uncontrolled interactions with cells and insufficient mechanical properties have prevented PLA from reaching its full potential as a scaffold for use in tissue engineering. Methods to improve the mechanical, chemical and biological properties of PLA are limited by the lack of functional groups along the backbone of the polymer. One possible approach towards overcoming these limitations involves the incorporation of functional groups into the backbone of the polymer through the copolymerization of monomers bearing protected functional groups. Deprotection and modification of these functional groups could provide the opportunity to direct the attachment of cells, and enhance to the physical properties of the polymer. We have developed a general methodology for the synthesis of lactide monomers substituted with protected functional groups (alcohols protected as benzyl ethers, amines protected as benzyl carbamates and carboxylic acids protected as benzyl esters). The monomers were homopolymerized, and copolymerized with lactide, and deprotected to give functional PLA copolymers with pendant hydroxyl, amine, and carboxyl groups. A thorough investigation of the chemical modification of PLA copolymers bearing functional groups along the polymer backbone was performed on a copolymer prepared by copolymerizarion of a dibenzyloxy-substituted lactide monomer with lactide followed by reductive debenzylation. Reaction of the resulting hydroxyl-substited PLA with succinic anhydride resulted in an acid-substituted PLA that is amenable to standard EDC/NHS coupling. The utility of this copolymer was illustrated by coupling with an amine derivative of biotin, and an RGD-containing peptide sequence. The preparation of the biodegradable polyester substituted with RGD, a ubiquitous adhesion peptide, provided us with control over cellular attachment to the hybrid material. We also explored approaches to make use of the pendant functional groups on PLA to enhance the physical properties of polymer foams. Copolymers with pendant photocrosslinkable cinnamate groups were prepared by reaction of the hydroxyl-substited PLA copolymers with cinnamoyl chloride. The copolymer was foamed using thermally-induced phase separation (TIPS), and photocrosslinked upon irradiation at 300 nm. Irradiation resulted in an increase in the compressive modulus of the foams. Crosslinking also led to a decrease in the rate of hydrolytic degradation of the foams, thereby demonstrating the potential for use of these strategies in the development of porous scaffolds for bioengineering. Another potential approach towards the preparation of robust polymer foams is the incorporation of a rigid polymer block which can phase separate during foam formation to provide additional structural integrity. Several poly(norbornene)-PLA diblock copolymer compositions were prepared by the ring-opening of lactide by a hydroxyl-terminated poly(norbornene) macroinitiator. The ability of the diblock copolymer to phase separate at elevated temperature was verified using small-angle x-ray scattering and wide-angle x-ray scattering.