Calcium Phosphate as a Key Material for Socially Responsible Tissue Engineering
This article was originally published in Materials, volume 9, issue 6, in 2016. DOI: 10.3390/ma9060434
Socially responsible technologies are designed while taking into consideration the socioeconomic, geopolitical and environmental limitations of regions in which they will be implemented. In the medical context, this involves making therapeutic platforms more accessible and affordable to patients in poor regions of the world wherein a given disease is endemic. This often necessitates going against the reigning trend of making therapeutic nanoparticles ever more structurally complex and expensive. However, studies aimed at simplifying materials and formulations while maintaining the functionality and therapeutic response of their more complex counterparts seldom provoke a significant interest in the scientific community. In this review we demonstrate that such compositional simplifications are meaningful when it comes to the design of a solution for osteomyelitis, a disease that is in its natural, non-postoperative form particularly prevalent in the underdeveloped parts of the world wherein poverty, poor sanitary conditions, and chronically compromised defense lines of the immune system are the norm. We show that calcium phosphate nanoparticles, which are inexpensive to make, could be chemically designed to possess the same functionality as a hypothetic mixture additionally composed of: (a) a bone growth factor; (b) an antibiotic for prophylactic or anti-infective purposes; (c) a bisphosphonate as an antiresorptive compound; (d) a viral vector to enable the intracellular delivery of therapeutics; (e) a luminescent dye; (f) a radiographic component; (g) an imaging contrast agent; (h) a magnetic domain; and (i) polymers as viscous components enabling the injectability of the material and acting as carriers for the sustained release of a drug. In particular, calcium phosphates could: (a) produce tunable drug release profiles; (b) take the form of viscous and injectable, self-setting pastes; (c) be naturally osteo-inductive and inhibitory for osteoclastogenesis; (d) intracellularly deliver bioactive compounds; (e) accommodate an array of functional ions; (f) be processed into macroporous constructs for tissue engineering; and (g) be naturally antimicrobial. All in all, we see in calcium phosphates the presence of a protean nature whose therapeutic potentials have been barely tapped into.