Concentration and M/G ratio influence the physiochemical and mechanical properties of alginate constructs for tissue engineering

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The diffusion and mechanical properties of calcium alginate gels were determined using constructs of different alginate concentrations and guluronic acid contents. It was found that the diffusion of small molecules such as sulphate, glucose and thymidine was not impeded by any of the alginates tested at concentrations of 1% and 3% (w/v). By contrast, the diffusion of large molecules, including insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), human growth hormone and bovine serum albumin was impeded by alginate. This effect was enhanced with increasing alginate concentration, but was less evident for alginates with increased guluronic acid content. These findings have significant implications in tissue engineering where cells such as chondrocytes depend on the supply of factors such as IGF-1 to remain viable. An increase in both alginate concentration and guluronic acid content also increased the compressive properties, as determined by both tangent and equilibrium modulus, of alginate constructs. Although the 3% alginate constructs exhibited enhanced stiffness compared to some reported cartilage substitute biomaterials, such as PGA, their absolute values were still appreciably less stiff than articular cartilage. (Journal of Applied Biomaterials & Biomechanics 2006; 4: 87-96)

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