Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most frequently torn ligament in the knee, and complete healing is unlikely due to lack of vascularization. Current approaches for the treatment of ACL injuries include surgical interventions and grafting, however recent reports show that surgeries have 94% recurrency, and that repaired tissues are biomechanically inferior to the native tissue. These necessitate the need for new strategies for scar-free repair/regeneration of ACL injuries. Polycaprolactone (PCL) is a biodegradable and biocompatible synthetic polymer, which has been widely used in the connective tissue repair/regeneration attempts. Here, we report on the synthesis of PCL via ring opening polymerization using ε-caprolactone as the monomer, and ammonium heptamolybdate as a catalyst. The synthesized PCL was characterized using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. It was then processed using electrospinning to form nanofiber-based scaffolds. These scaffolds were characterized in terms of surface as well as mechanical properties, and compared to the properties of commercially available PCL, and of native ACL tissue harvested from sheep. In addition, scaffolds fabricated with synthesized PCL were evaluated regarding their cell attachment capacity using human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hBMSCs). Our findings demonstrated that the synthesized PCL is similar to its commercially available counterpart in terms of surface morphology and mechanical properties. In addition, fibrous scaffolds generated with electrospinning showed weaker mechanical properties visa vis native ACL tissue in terms of ultimate stress, and elastic modulus. Also, the synthesized PCL can accommodate cell attachment when tested with hBMSCs. Putting together, these observations reveal that the PCL synthesized in this study could be a good candidate as a biomaterial for ligament repair or regeneration.
Keywords: Anterior cruciate ligament; Biomechanics; Polycaprolactone; Synthesis; Tissue engineering.
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