Background: Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are biologically active molecules capable of eliciting new bone formation. In combination with biomaterials, these proteins can be used in a clinical setting as bone-graft substitutes to promote bone repair. Collagen from animal sources has previously been the preferred carrier material in animal experiments. More recently, synthetic biodegradable polymers have been tested as a delivery vehicle for osteoinductive agents. In earlier studies performed in our laboratory, it was found that the polylactic acid homopolymers (PLA650) and poly-d,l-lactic acid-polyethylene glycol block copolymers (PLA650-PEG200) are viscous liquids that can be used as BMP delivery systems.
Methods: To obtain new PLA-PEG polymers that exhibit greater plasticity, the molecular sizes of PLA and PEG segments in the copolymer chains were increased. Plastic PLA-PEG polymers with various molecular sizes and PLA/PEG ratios were synthesized, mixed with recombinant human (rh) BMP-2, and implanted into the dorsal muscles of mice for 3 weeks to evaluate their capacity to elicit new bone formation. To compare the plastic PLA-PEG polymer with the liquid PLA650-PEG200 polymer, these two polymers were combined with rhBMP-2, implanted, and harvested after 3 weeks. Bone mineral content (BMC), bone area, and bone mineral density (BMD) of the ectopic new bone were measured by means of single energy X-ray absorptiometry (SXA).
Results: All of the PLA6,500-PEG3,000 implants with 10 or 20 g of rhBMP-2 showed new bone formation. In contrast, little or no bone formation was seen in other plastic PLA-PEG implants with rhBMP-2. Control implants that lacked rhBMP-2 did not show new bone formation. Radiographic and histologic examinations showed that the PLA6,500-PEG3,000 implants with rhBMP-2 harvested 3 weeks after implantation had normal bone characteristics with hematopoietic marrow and osseous trabeculae. SXA analysis showed that the values for bone mineral content (BMC), bone area, and bone mineral density (BMD) of new bone resulting from the use of plastic PLA6,500-PEG3,000 polymers with rhBMP-2 were significantly higher than those obtained with the liquid PLA650-PEG200 polymers (p < 0.001 for each of the three values).
Conclusions: These results indicate that the PLA6,500-PEG3000 block copolymer with plastic properties works effectively as a BMP delivery system. These data suggest that the total molecular size and ratio of PLA size to PEG size is an essential factor in determining the efficacy of a BMP delivery system. After implantation, it is possible that the PLA6,500-PEG3,000 pellets might have absorbed tissue fluids and become swollen, resulting in bone formation that exceeded the size of the original implants. This expansion characteristic is a potentially beneficial property, given the intended practical application of the polymer in the repair of bone defects.
New synthetic biodegradable delivery systems will play an important role in the clinical applications of rhBMPs in which local formation of bone via an osteoinductive graft material is needed. Further pre-clinical and clinical work is necessary to establish the safety of these implants before they are adopted for widespread clinical use.
Naoto Saito, MD, PhD; Hiroshi Horiuchi, MD; Narumichi Murakami, MD; Jun Takahashi, MD; Masashi Nawata, MD; Hiroshi Ota, MD; Kunio Takaoka, MD, PhD; Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Shinshu University School of Medicine, Asahi 3-1-1, Matsumoto, 390-8621, Japan. E-mail address for N. Saito: email@example.com
Takao Okada, MS; Research Institute, Taki Chemical Co., Ltd., 64-1 Nishiwaki, Befucho, Kakogawa, Hyogo 675-0125, Japan
Shimpei Miyamoto, MD, PhD; Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Osaka University Medical School, 2-2 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan
Kazutoshi Nozaki, PhD; Applied Pharmacology Laboratories, Institute for Drug Discovery Research, Yamanouch Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., 21 Miyukigaoka, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8585, Japan