Relating the Bulk and Interface Structure of Hyaluronan to Physical Properties of Future Biomaterials
Sammanfattning: This dissertation describes a structural investigation of hyaluronan (HA) with neutron scattering techniques. HA is a natural biopolymer and one of the major components of the extracellular matrix, synovial fluid, and vitreous humor. It is used in several biomedical applications like tissue engineering, drug delivery, and treatment of osteoarthritis. Although HA is extensively studied, very little is known about its three-dimensional conformation and how it interacts with ions and other molecules. The study aims to understand the bulk structure of a cross-linked HA hydrogel, as well as the conformational arrangement of HA at solid-liquid interfaces. In addition, the structural changes of HA are investigated by simulation of physiological environments, such as changes in ions, interactions with nanoparticles, and proteins etc. Small-angle neutron scattering and neutron reflectivity are the two main techniques applied to investigate the nanostructure of hyaluronan in its original, hydrated state.The present study on hydrogels shows that they possess inhomogeneous structures best described with two correlation lengths, one of the order of a few nanometers and the other in the order of few hundred nanometers. These gels are made up of dense polymer-rich clusters linked to each other. The polymer concentration and mixing governs the connectivity between these clusters, which in turn determines the viscoelastic properties of the gels. Surface-tethered HA at a solid-liquid interface is best described with a smooth varying density profile. The shape of this profile depends on the immobilization chemistry, the deposition protocol, and the ionic interactions. HA could be suitably modified to enhance adherence to metal surfaces, as well as incorporation of proteins like growth factors with tunable release properties. This could be exploited for surface coating of implants with bioactive molecules. The knowledge gained from this work would significantly help to develop future biomaterials and surface coatings of implants and biomedical devices.
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