Dicalcium phosphate dihydrate (DCPD) is one of the mineral phases indicated as possible precursors of biological apatites and it is widely employed in the preparation of calcium phosphate bone cements. Herein, we investigated the possibility to functionalize DCPD with aspartic acid (ASP) and poly-aspartic acid (PASP), as models of the acidic macromolecules of biomineralized tissues, and studied their influence on DCPD hydrolysis. To this aim, the synthesis of DCPD was performed in aqueous solution in the presence of increasing concentrations of PASP and ASP, whereas the hydrolysis reaction was carried out in physiological solution up to three days. The results indicate that it is possible to prepare DCPD functionalized with PASP up to a polyelectrolyte content of about 2.3 wt%. The increase of PASP content induces crystal aggregation, reduction of the yield of the reaction and of the thermal stability of the synthesized DCPD. Moreover, DCPD samples functionalized with PASP display a slower hydrolysis than pure DCPD. On the other hand, in the explored range of concentrations (up to 10 mM) ASP is not incorporated into DCPD and does not influence its crystallization nor its hydrolysis. At variance, when present in the hydrolysis solution, ASP, and even more PASP, delays the conversion into the more stable phases, octacalcium phosphate and/or hydroxyapatite. The greater influence of PASP on the synthesis and hydrolysis of DCPD can be ascribed to the cooperative action of the carboxylate groups and to its good fit with DCPD structure.
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