Evaluation of a self-fitting, shape memory polymer scaffold in a rabbit calvarial defect model

Michaela R. Pfau, Felipe O. Beltran, Lindsay N. Woodard, Lauren K. Dobson, Shelby B. Gasson, Andrew B. Robbins, Zachary T. Lawson, W. Brian Saunders, Michael R. Moreno, Melissa A. Grunlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Self-fitting scaffolds prepared from biodegradable poly(ε-caprolactone)-diacrylate (PCL-DA) have been developed for the treatment of craniomaxillofacial (CMF) bone defects. As a thermoresponsive shape memory polymer (SMP), with the mere exposure to warm saline, these porous scaffolds achieve a conformal fit in defects. This behavior was expected to be advantageous to osseointegration and thus bone healing. Herein, for an initial assessment of their regenerative potential, a pilot in vivo study was performed using a rabbit calvarial defect model. Exogenous growth factors and cells were excluded from the scaffolds. Key scaffold material properties were confirmed to be maintained following gamma sterilization. To assess scaffold integration and neotissue infiltration along the defect perimeter, non-critically sized (d = 8 mm) bilateral calvarial defects were created in 12 New Zealand white rabbits. Bone formation was assessed at 4 and 16 weeks using histological analysis and micro-CT, comparing defects treated with an SMP scaffold (d = 9 mm x t = 1 or 2 mm) to untreated defects (i.e. defects able to heal without intervention). To further assess osseointegration, push-out tests were performed at 16 weeks and compared to defects treated with poly(ether ether ketone) (PEEK) discs (d = 8.5 mm x t = 2 mm). The results of this study confirmed that the SMP scaffolds were biocompatible and highly conducive to bone formation and ingrowth at the perimeter. Ultimately, this resulted in similar bone volume and surface area versus untreated defects and superior performance in push-out testing versus defects treated with PEEK discs. Statement of significance: Current treatments of craniomaxillofacial (CMF) bone defects include biologic and synthetic grafts but they are limited in their ability to form good contact with adjacent tissue. A regenerative engineering approach using a biologic-free scaffold able to achieve conformal fitting represents a potential “off-the-shelf” surgical product to heal CMF bone defects. Having not yet been evaluated in vivo, this study provided the preliminary assessment of the bone healing potential of self-fitting PCL scaffolds using a rabbit calvarial defect model. The study was designed to assess scaffold biocompatibility as well as bone formation and ingrowth using histology, micro-CT, and biomechanical push-out tests. The favorable results provide a basis to pursue establishing self-fitting scaffolds as a treatment option for CMF defects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-242
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Biomechanics
  • Calvarial defect
  • Rabbit
  • Shape memory polymer (SMP) scaffolds
  • Tissue engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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