Pathologic calcification leads to structural deterioration of implant materials via stiffening, stress cracking, and other structural disintegration mechanisms, and the effect can be critical for implants intended for long-term or permanent implantation. This study demonstrates the potential of using specific metal ions (MI)s for inhibiting pathological calcification in polyurethane (PU) implants. The hypothesis of using MIs as anti-calcification agents was based on the natural calcium-antagonist role of Mg2+
ions in human body, and the anti-calcification effect of Fe3+
ions in bio-prosthetic heart valves has previously been confirmed. In vitro calcification results indicated that a protective covering mesh of MI-doped PU can prevent calcification by preventing hydroxyapatite crystal growth. However, microstructure and mechanical characterisation revealed oxidative degradation effects from Fe3+
ions on the mechanical properties of the PU matrix. Therefore, from both a mechanical and anti-calcification effects point of view, Mg2+
ions are more promising candidates than Fe3+
ions. The in vitro MI release experiments demonstrated that PU microphase separation and the structural design of PU-MI matrices were important determinants of release kinetics. Increased phase separation in doped PU assisted in consistent long-term release of dissolved MIs from both hard and soft segments of the PU. The use of a composite-sandwich mesh design prevented an initial burst release which improved the late (>20 days) release rate of MIs from the matrix.
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