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Biomaterials. 2005 Sep;26(27):5474-91.

Porosity of 3D biomaterial scaffolds and osteogenesis.

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1
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Tufts University, 4 Colby Street, Medford, MA 02155, USA.

Abstract

Porosity and pore size of biomaterial scaffolds play a critical role in bone formation in vitro and in vivo. This review explores the state of knowledge regarding the relationship between porosity and pore size of biomaterials used for bone regeneration. The effect of these morphological features on osteogenesis in vitro and in vivo, as well as relationships to mechanical properties of the scaffolds, are addressed. In vitro, lower porosity stimulates osteogenesis by suppressing cell proliferation and forcing cell aggregation. In contrast, in vivo, higher porosity and pore size result in greater bone ingrowth, a conclusion that is supported by the absence of reports that show enhanced osteogenic outcomes for scaffolds with low void volumes. However, this trend results in diminished mechanical properties, thereby setting an upper functional limit for pore size and porosity. Thus, a balance must be reached depending on the repair, rate of remodeling and rate of degradation of the scaffold material. Based on early studies, the minimum requirement for pore size is considered to be approximately 100 microm due to cell size, migration requirements and transport. However, pore sizes >300 microm are recommended, due to enhanced new bone formation and the formation of capillaries. Because of vascularization, pore size has been shown to affect the progression of osteogenesis. Small pores favored hypoxic conditions and induced osteochondral formation before osteogenesis, while large pores, that are well-vascularized, lead to direct osteogenesis (without preceding cartilage formation). Gradients in pore sizes are recommended for future studies focused on the formation of multiple tissues and tissue interfaces. New fabrication techniques, such as solid-free form fabrication, can potentially be used to generate scaffolds with morphological and mechanical properties more selectively designed to meet the specificity of bone-repair needs.

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