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This paper presents a comprehensive effort to develop and analyze first-of-its-kind design-specific and bioactive piezoelectric scaffolds for treating orthopedic defects. The study has three major highlights. First, this is one of the first studies that utilize extrusion-based 3D printing to develop design-specific macroporous piezoelectric scaffolds for treating bone defects. The scaffolds with controlled pore size and architecture were synthesized based on unique composite formulations containing polycaprolactone (PCL) and micron-sized barium titanate (BaTiO3) particles. Second, the bioactive PCL-BaTiO3 piezoelectric composite formulations were explicitly developed in the form of uniform diameter filaments, which served as feedstock material for the fused filament fabrication (FFF)-based 3D printing. A combined method comprising solvent casting and extrusion (melt-blending) was designed and deemed suitable to develop the high-quality PCL-BaTiO3 bioactive composite filaments for 3D printing. Third, clinical ultrasonic stimulation (US) was used to stimulate the piezoelectric effect, i.e., create stress on the PCL-BaTiO3 scaffolds to generate electrical fields. Subsequently, we analyzed the impact of scaffold-generated piezoelectric stimulation on MC3T3 pre-osteoblast behavior. Our results confirmed that FFF could form high-resolution, macroporous piezoelectric scaffolds, and the poled PCL-BaTiO3 composites resulted in the d(33) coefficient in the range of 1.2-2.6 pC/N, which is proven suitable for osteogenesis. In vitro results revealed that the scaffolds with a mean pore size of 320 mu m resulted in the highest pre-osteoblast growth kinetics. While 1 Hz US resulted in enhanced pre-osteoblast adhesion, proliferation, and spreading, 3 Hz US benefited osteoblast differentiation by upregulating important osteogenic markers. This study proves that 3D-printed bioactive piezoelectric scaffolds coupled with US are promising to expedite bone regeneration in orthopedic defects.




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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.