Strontium substituted bioactive glasses for tissue engineered scaffolds: the importance of octacalcium phosphate.
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Porous bioactive glasses are attractive for use as bone scaffolds. There is increasing interest in strontium containing bone grafts, since strontium ions are known to up-regulate osteoblasts and down regulate osteoclasts. This paper investigates the influence of partial to full substitution of strontium for calcium on the dissolution and phase formation of a multicomponent high phosphate content bioactive glass. The glasses were synthesised by a high temperature melt quench route and ground to a powder of <38 microns. The dissolution of this powder and its ability to form apatite like phases after immersion in Tris buffer (pH 7.4) and simulated body fluid (SBF) was followed by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP), Fourier transform infra red spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) and (31)P solid state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy up to 42 days of immersion. ICP indicated that all three glasses dissolved at approximately the same rate. The all calcium (SP-0Sr-35Ca) glass showed evidence of apatite like phase formation in both Tris buffer and SBF, as demonstrated after 3 days by FTIR and XRD analysis of the precipitate that formed during the acellular dissolution bioactivity studies. The strontium substituted SP-17Sr-17Ca glass showed no clear evidence of apatite like phase formation in Tris, but evidence of an apatite like phase was observed after 7 days incubation in SBF. The SP-35Sr-0Ca glass formed a new crystalline phase termed "X Phase" in Tris buffer which FTIR indicated was a form of crystalline orthophosphate. The SP-35Sr-0Ca glass appeared to support apatite like phase formation in SBF by 28 days incubation. The results indicate that strontium substitution for calcium in high phosphate content bioactive glasses can retard apatite like phase formation. It is proposed that apatite formation with high phosphate bioactive glasses occurs via an octacalcium phosphate (OCP) precursor phase that subsequently transforms to apatite. The equivalent octa-strontium phosphate does not exist and consequently in the absence of calcium, apatite formation does not occur. The amount of strontium that can be substituted for calcium in OCP probably determines the amount of strontium in the final apatite phase and the speed with which it forms.