Chemosynthesis of bioresorbable poly(gamma-butyrolactone) by ring-opening polymerisation: a review

Biomaterials. 2005 Jun;26(18):3771-82. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2004.10.002.


Recent advances in the synthesis of poly(gamma-butyrolactone) have yielded homopolymers of up to 50,000 Mw from the low-cost monomer gamma-butyrolactone. This monomer has for the better part of a century been thought impossible to polymerise. Poly(gamma-butyrolactone) displays properties that are ideal for tissue-engineering applications and the bacterially derived equivalent, poly(4-hydroxybutyrate) (P4HB), has been evaluated for such uses. The glass transition temperature (-48 to -51 degrees C), melting point (53-60 degrees C), tensile strength (50 MPa), Young's modulus (70 MPa) and elongation at break (1000%) of P4HB make it a very useful biomaterial. Poly(gamma-butyrolactone) degrades to give gamma-hydroxybutyric acid which is a naturally occurring metabolite in the body and it has been shown to be bioresorbable. Investigation into the synthesis of poly(gamma-butyrolactone) has recently produced homo-oligomeric diols 400-1000 Mw that are suitable for reacting with diisocyanates to form polyurethanes. Biodegradable polyurethanes made from diols of polyglycolide (PGA) and poly(epsilon-caprolactone) (PCL) have the disadvantage of high glass transition and slow degradation, respectively. Poly(gamma-butyrolactone) can be thought of as being the missing link in the biodegradable polyester family immediately between PGA and PCL and displaying intermediate properties.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 4-Butyrolactone / adverse effects
  • 4-Butyrolactone / chemical synthesis*
  • Absorbable Implants*
  • Biocompatible Materials / adverse effects
  • Biocompatible Materials / chemical synthesis*
  • Polymers / adverse effects
  • Polymers / chemical synthesis*
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Polymers
  • 4-Butyrolactone