Histological Evaluation of the Biocompatibility of Polyurea Crosslinked Silica Aerogel Implants in a Rat Model: A Pilot Study


Background: Aerogels are a versatile group of nanostructured/nanoporous materials with physical and chemical properties that can be adjusted to suit the application of interest. In terms of biomedical applications, aerogels are particularly suitable for implants such as membranes, tissue growth scaffolds, and nerve regeneration and guidance inserts. The mesoporous nature of aerogels can also be used for diffusion based release of drugs that are loaded during the drying stage of the material. From the variety of aerogels polyurea crosslinked silica aerogels have the most potential for future biomedical applications and are explored here. Methodology: This study assessed the short and long term biocompatibility of polyurea crosslinked silica aerogel implants in a Sprague-Dawley rat model. Implants were inserted at two different locations a) subcutaneously (SC), at the dorsum and b) intramuscularly (IM), between the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris of the left hind extremity. Nearby muscle and other internal organs were evaluated histologically for inflammation, tissue damage, fibrosis and movement (travel) of implant. Conclusion/Significance: In general polyurea crosslinked silica aerogel (PCSA) was well tolerated as a subcutaneous and an intramuscular implant in the Sprague-Dawley rat with a maximum incubation time of twenty months. In some cases a thin fibrous capsule surrounded the aerogel implant and was interpreted as a normal response to foreign material. No noticeable toxicity was found in the tissues surrounding the implants nor in distant organs. Comparison was made with control rats without any implants inserted, and animals with suture material present. No obvious or noticeable changes were sustained by the implants at either location. Careful necropsy and tissue histology showed age-related changes only. An effective sterilization technique for PCSA implants as well as staining and sectioning protocol has been established. These studies further support the notion that silica-based aerogels could be useful as biomaterials. © 2012 Sabri et al.

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