Melt processable biomaterials for degradable surgical fixation devices
There are currently few biomaterials which combine controlled degradation rates with ease of melt processability. There are however, many applications ranging from surgical fixation devices to drug delivery systems which require such combination properties. The work in this thesis is an attempt to increase the availability of such materials. Polyhydroxybutyrate-polyhydroxyvalerate copolymers are a new class of potentially biodegradable materials, although little quantitative data relating to their in vitro and in vivo degradation behaviour exists. The hydrolytic degradation of these copolymers has been examined in vitro under conditions ranging from `physiological' to extremes of pH and elevated temperature. Progress of the degradation process was monitored by weight loss and water uptake measurement, x-ray diffractometry, optical and electron microscopy, together with changes in molecular weight by gel permeation chromatography. The extent to which the degradation mechanism could be modified by forming blends with polysaccharides and polycaprolactone was also investigated. Influence of the valerate content, molecular weight, crystallinity, together with the physical form of the sample, the pH and the temperature of the aqueous medium on the hydrolytic degradation was investigated. Its progress was characterised by an initial increase in the wet weight, with concurrent decrease in the dry weight as the amorphous regions of the polymer are eroded, thereby producing an increase in matrix porosity. With the polysaccharide blends, this initial rate is dramatically affected, and erosion of the polysaccharide from the matrix markedly increases the internal porosity which leads to the eventual collapse of the matrix, a process which occurs, but less rapidly, in the degradation of the unblended polyhydroxybutyrate-polyhydroxyvalerate copolymers. Surface energy measurement and goniophotometry proved potentially useful in monitoring the early stages of the degradation, where surface rather than bulk processes predominate and are characterised by little weight loss.