Porous films have been prepared from degradable polymers-poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB), poly-ε-caprolactone (PCL) and a blend of these polymers (1:3)-by adding porogen (camphor) to the polymer solution at 10%, 30% or 50% of the total mass of the polymer and porogen, and leaching it out afterwards. After the rinse, camphor content in films decreased to about 0.025%. The structure, physical/mechanical and biological properties of the films were investigated as dependent on their composition and porosity, which varied depending on the amount of camphor added. The surface of PHB films was porous, the PCL films were relatively smooth, and the PHB/PCL films had an intermediate structure. The addition of camphor increased the thickness (from 35 to 45 µm, from 40 to 80 µm and from 20 to 65 µm for PHB, PCL and PHB/PCL, respectively) and porosity (from 4.2(±3.6)% to 50.0(±12.8)%, from 6.4(±5.5)% to 54.5(±6.0)% and from 4.9(±4.8)% to 51.5(±5.8)%, respectively) of the films. The introduction (and removal) of 10% camphor into the PHB and PHB/PCL films led to an approximately twofold increase in the polar component of the free surface energy (from 5.4 ± 0.38 to 11.8 ± 1.33 and from 2.7 ± 0.13 to 5.2 ± 0.09 mN/m, respectively) but in other cases, on the contrary, a decrease in this indicator was registered. The increase of camphor addition from 0% to 50% gradually impaired mechanical properties of the films: so, Young's modulus decreased from 3.6 to 1.8 GPa, from 0.30 to 0.12 GPa and from 0.50 to 0.20 GPa for PHB, PCL and PHB/PCL, respectively. At the same time, the water vapor transmission rate considerably increased from 197.37 ± 23.62 to 934.03 ± 114.34 g/m2/d for PHB films; from 1027.99 ± 154.10 to 7014.62 ± 280.81 g/m2/d for PCL films; and from 715.47 ± 50.08 to 4239.09 ± 275.54 g/m2/d for PHB/PCL films. Results of biocompatibility testing in the culture of NIH 3T3 mouse fibroblast cells showed that for the most of experimental samples cell adhesion and proliferation were comparable or superior to the corresponding parameters on the initial nonporous films. The best results were obtained for PHB films where at Day 3 of the experiment the registered cell density for experimental samples arrived at 2.66(±0.26) × 105 cells/cm2 versus 1.29(±0.33) × 105 cells/cm2 in the control. So, the proposed method can be used to construct highly porous cell scaffolds for cellular engineering.
Keywords: biopolymers; camphor; co-soluble porogen; polycaprolactone; polyesters; polyhydroxybutyrate; porosity.