Characterizing the hierarchical structures of bioactive sol-gel silicate glass and hybrid scaffolds for bone regeneration

Richard Martin, S. Yue, J.V. Hanna, M.E. Smith, P.D. Lee, R.J. Newport, J R Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bone is the second most widely transplanted tissue after blood. Synthetic alternatives are needed that can reduce the need for transplants and regenerate bone by acting as active temporary templates for bone growth. Bioactive glasses are one of the most promising bone replacement/regeneration materials because they bond to existing bone, are degradable and stimulate new bone growth by the action of their dissolution products on cells. Sol-gel-derived bioactive glasses can be foamed to produce interconnected macropores suitable for tissue ingrowth, particularly cell migration and vascularization and cell penetration. The scaffolds fulfil many of the criteria of an ideal synthetic bone graft, but are not suitable for all bone defect sites because they are brittle. One strategy for improving toughness of the scaffolds without losing their other beneficial properties is to synthesize inorganic/organic hybrids. These hybrids have polymers introduced into the sol-gel process so that the organic and inorganic components interact at the molecular level, providing control over mechanical properties and degradation rates. However, a full understanding of how each feature or property of the glass and hybrid scaffolds affects cellular response is needed to optimize the materials and ensure long-term success and clinical products. This review focuses on the techniques that have been developed for characterizing the hierarchical structures of sol-gel glasses and hybrids, from atomicscale amorphous networks, through the covalent bonding between components in hybrids and nanoporosity, to quantifying open macroporous networks of the scaffolds. Methods for non-destructive in situ monitoring of degradation and bioactivity mechanisms of the materials are also included.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1422-1443
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophical Transactions A
Issue number1963
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2012


  • bioactive glass
  • sol–gel
  • bone regeneration
  • scaffolds
  • tissue engineering


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