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Polymeric materials for biomedical applications

Keywords: tissue engineering, controlled drug release, antibacterial properties, biodegradability/biocompatibility, structure- properties relationships
Fig. 1. SEM micrographs of PBS: a) 1000x, b) 10000x (Figure by N. Lotti est al).
Fig. 2. Drug release profile from biodegradable polymeric microparticles (Figure by M. Gigli).

As it is well known, polymers are the most versatile class of materials, thus can be favorably designed to fulfill the needs related to the variety of tissues and diseases involved in the human body. The research group has recently focused its activities on three main aspects of biomedical engineering: tissue engineering, controlled drug release and polymers with antibacterial properties.

Tissue engineering
The control of molecular structure and tridimensional architecture of synthetic polymeric constructs (scaffolds) - designed to reproduce the typical properties of the damage tissue - is a key element for controlling cell adhesion, proliferation, migration and differentiation. In the field of tissue engineering the possibility to employ scaffolds mimicking native tissue is limited by the scarce availability of biocompatible and biodegradable polymers with proper mechanical properties, especially in terms of stiffness.

Controlled drug release
Classical methods of drug delivery exhibit specific problems that scientists are attempting to address. The goal of new drug delivery systems, therefore, is to deliver medications intact to specifically targeted parts of the body and to release them in a controlled way depending on the required treatment regime. The design of the drug carrier is fundamental in order to achieve the correct tissutal and cellular localization of drug molecules and perform an adequate release. In this framework, polymers and copolymers are the most promising tool to obtain materials showing specifically designed properties to be employed as drug carriers.

Polymers with antibacterial properties
Antibacterial properties can be introduced into a polymer by following different strategies: chemical modifications carried out in bulk, surface modification, blending with chemically modified nanofillers.

Main publications

C. Gualandi, M. Soccio, E. Saino, M. L. Focarete, N. Lotti, A. Munari, L. Moroni, L. Visai. (2012). Easily sinthesized novel biodegradable copolyesters with adjustable properties for biomedical applications. SOFT MATTER. vol. 8, pp. 5466 - 5476 ISSN: 1744-683X.

C. Gualandi, M. Soccio, M. Govoni, S. Valente, N. Lotti, A. Munari, E. Giordano, G. Pasquinelli, M. L. Focarete. (2012). Poly(butylene/diethylene glycol succinate) multiblock copolyesters as a candidate biomaterial for soft tissue engineering: solid-state properties, degradability and biocompatibility. BIOACTIVE AND COMPATIBLE POLYMERS. vol. 27(3), pp. 244 - 264 ISSN: 0883-9115.

M. Soccio, N. Lotti, M. Gazzano, M. Govoni, E. Giordano, A. Munari (2012). Molecular architecture and solid-state properties of novel biocompatibile PBS-based copolyesters containing sulphur atoms. REACTIVE AND FUNCTIONAL POLYMERS. Vol. 72, pp. 856 – 867. ISSN: 1381-5148.

M. Gigli, N. Lotti, M. Gazzano, L. Finelli, A. Munari. (2012). Macromolecular design of novel sulphur-containing copolyesters with promising mechanical properties. JOURNAL OF APPLIED POLYMER SCIENCE. vol. 126, pp. 686 - 696 ISSN: 0021-8995.