Journal article

Nanofibrillated cellulose composite hydrogel for the replacement of the nucleus pulposus

The swelling and compressive mechanical behavior as well as the morphology and biocompatibility of composite hydrogels based on Tween® 20 trimethacrylate (T3), N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone (NVP) and nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) were assessed in the present study. The chemical structure of T3 was verified by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and proton nuclear magnetic resonance, and the degree of substitution was found to be around 3. Swelling ratios of neat hydrogels composed of different concentrations of T3 and NVP were found to range from 1.5 to 5.7 with decreasing concentration of T3. Various concentrations of cellulose nanofibrils (0.2-1.6wt.%) were then used to produce composite hydrogels that showed lower swelling ratios than neat ones for a given T3 concentration. Neat and composite hydrogels exhibited a typical nonlinear response under compression. All composite hydrogels showed an increase in elastic modulus compared to neat hydrogel of about 3- to 8-fold, reaching 18kPa at 0% strain and 62kPa at 20% strain for the hydrogel with the highest NFC content. All hydrogels presented a porous and homogeneous structure, with interconnected pore cells of around 100nm in diameter. The hydrogels are biocompatible. The results of this study demonstrate that composite hydrogels reinforced with NFC may be viable as nucleus pulposus implants due to their adequate swelling ratio, which may restore the annulus fibrosus loading, and their increased mechanical properties, which could possibly restore the height of the intervertebral discs.

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