Developing stimulus-responsive biomaterials with easy-to-tailor properties is a highly desired goal of the tissue engineering community. A novel type of electroactive biomaterial, the conductive polymer, promises to become one such material. Conductive polymers are already used in fuel cells, computer displays and microsurgical tools, and are now finding applications in the field of biomaterials. These versatile polymers can be synthesised alone, as hydrogels, combined into composites or electrospun into microfibres. They can be created to be biocompatible and biodegradable. Their physical properties can easily be optimized for a specific application through binding biologically important molecules into the polymer using one of the many available methods for their functionalization. Their conductive nature allows cells or tissue cultured upon them to be stimulated, the polymers' own physical properties to be influenced post-synthesis and the drugs bound in them released, through the application of an electrical signal. It is thus little wonder that these polymers are becoming very important materials for biosensors, neural implants, drug delivery devices and tissue engineering scaffolds. Focusing mainly on polypyrrole, polyaniline and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene), we review conductive polymers from the perspective of tissue engineering. The basic properties of conductive polymers, their chemical and electrochemical synthesis, the phenomena underlying their conductivity and the ways to tailor their properties (functionalization, composites, etc.) are discussed.
Keywords: Biocompatibility; Conductive polymer; Drug release; Polyaniline; Polypyrrole.
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