An investigation into the potential use of poly(vinylphosphonic acid-co-acrylic acid) in bone tissue scaffolds

  • Rebecca Dey

Student thesis: Phd


Bone undergoes constant turnover throughout life and has the capacity to regenerate itself. However, the repair of critical size defects, caused by bone diseases such as osteoporosis, can be more problematic. Therefore, there is a clinical need for a bone graft substitute that can be used at sites of surgical intervention to enhance bone regeneration. Poly(vinylphosphonic acid-co-acrylic acid) (PVPA-co-AA) has recently been identified as a potential candidate for use in bone tissue scaffolds. It is hypothesised that PVPA-co-AA can mimic the action of bisphosphonates – a class of drugs used in the treatment of osteoporosis – by binding to calcium ions from bone mineral surfaces. In this way, bisphosphonates can affect bone turnover by increasing the activity of osteoblasts and reducing osteoclast activity. Although PVPA-co-AA has been shown to improve bone formation, the mechanism of action has so far not been fully elucidated. Therefore, this work aims to understand the effect of copolymer composition on the properties of PVPA-co-AA, and thus to determine its effect on osteoblast adhesion and proliferation. PVPA-co-AA copolymers have been synthesised with a range of monomer feed ratios. It was found that a VPA content of 30 mol % led to the greatest calcium binding affinity of the copolymer and is thus expected to lead to enhanced bone formation and mineralisation of the matrix produced by osteoblast cells. The release profile of PVPA-co-AA from electrospun PCL scaffolds was investigated. It was shown that all of the PVPA-co-AA was released into aqueous media within 8 h of immersion. It was also found that the calcium chelation from osteogenic differentiation media significantly increased within the first 8 h. Therefore, it was concluded that PVPA-co-AA is released from the scaffolds, where it can then bind to calcium ions from the bone mineral surface to promote mineralisation, thus acting as a mimic of non-collagenous proteins, which are present in the extracellular matrix (ECM) of bone. Hydrogels of PVPA-co-AA have been produced and the effect of monomer feed ratio (0-50 mol % VPA) on the properties of the gels was explored. It was found that an increase in VPA content led to greater hydrogel swelling and increased porosities. Hydrogels that contained 30 and 50 mol % VPA were shown to have similar morphologies to the native ECM of bone. Rheological testing showed that hydrogels with higher VPA contents were more flexible and could be deformed to a large extent without permanent deformation of their structure. An increase in osteoblast adhesion and proliferation was observed for hydrogels with 30 and 50 mol % VPA content as well as superior cell spreading. Osteoblast cell metabolic activity also increased as a function of VPA content in the hydrogels. This work indicates that hydrogels of PVPA-co-AA, with VPA contents of 30 or 50 mol %, are ideal for use as bone tissue scaffolds. Furthermore, the mechanical and cell adhesion properties of the gels can be tuned by altering the copolymer composition. Finally, composite hydrogels of PVPA-co-AA and hydroxyapatite (HA) have been produced and investigated for their ability to remove fluoride ions from groundwater. It was found that the fluoride uptake ability of PVPA-HA hydrogels was significantly enhanced when compared with HA powder alone. Furthermore, the fluoride uptake was dependent on many factors, including pH, contact time and the presence of competing ions. It was possible to regenerate the hydrogel to remove the fluoride ions, and thus it was shown that the material can be used a number of times with only a slight reduction in its fluoride uptake capacity.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Budd (Supervisor), Julie Gough (Supervisor) & David Watts (Supervisor)


  • hydrogels
  • poly(vinylphosphonic acid-co-acrylic acid)
  • bone tissue engineering

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