The quest for synthetic materials to repair load-bearing bone lost because of trauma, cancer, or congenital bone defects requires the development of porous, high-performance scaffolds with exceptional mechanical strength. However, the low mechanical strength of porous bioactive ceramic and glass scaffolds, compared with that of human cortical bone, has limited their use for these applications. In the present work bioactive 6P53B glass scaffolds with superior mechanical strength were fabricated using a direct ink writing technique. The rheological properties of Pluronic® F-127 (referred to hereafter simply as F-127) hydrogel-based inks were optimized for the printing of features as fine as 30 μm and of three-dimensional scaffolds. The mechanical strength and in vitro degradation of the scaffolds were assessed in a simulated body fluid (SBF). The sintered glass scaffolds showed a compressive strength (136 ± 22 MPa) comparable with that of human cortical bone (100-150 MPa), while the porosity (60%) was in the range of that of trabecular bone (50-90%). The strength is ~100-times that of polymer scaffolds and 4-5-times that of ceramic and glass scaffolds with comparable porosities. Despite the strength decrease resulting from weight loss during immersion in SBF, the value (77 MPa) is still far above that of trabecular bone after 3 weeks. The ability to create both porous and strong structures opens a new avenue for fabricating scaffolds for load-bearing bone defect repair and regeneration.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.