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Strategies for the Covalent Anchoring of a BMP-2-Mimetic Peptide to PEEK Surface for Bone Tissue Engineering

Researchers in the field of tissue engineering are always searching for new scaffolds for bone repair. Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is a chemically inert polymer that is insoluble in conventional solvents. PEEK’s great potential in tissue engineering applications arises from its ability to not induce adverse reactions when in contact with biological tissues and its mechanical properties, which are similar to those of human bone. These exceptional features are limited by the bio-inertness of PEEK, which causes poor osteogenesis on the implant surface. Here, we demonstrated that the covalent grafting of the sequence (48–69) mapped on the BMP-2 growth factor (GBMP1α) significantly enhances the mineralization and gene expression of human osteoblasts. Different chemical methods were employed for covalently grafting the peptide onto 3D-printed PEEK disks: (a) the reaction between PEEK carbonyls and amino-oxy groups inserted in the peptides’ N-terminal sites (oxime chemistry) and (b) the photoactivation of azido groups present in the peptides’ N-terminal sites, which produces nitrene radicals able to react with PEEK surface. The peptide-induced PEEK surface modification was assessed using X-ray photoelectron measurements, while the superficial properties of the functionalized material were analyzed by means of atomic force microscopy and force spectroscopy. Live and dead assays and SEM measurements showed greater cell cover on functionalized samples than the control, without any cytotoxicity induction. Moreover, functionalization improved the rate of cell proliferation and the amount of calcium deposits, as demonstrated by the AlamarBlue™ and alizarin red results, respectively. The effects of GBMP1α on h-osteoblast gene expression were assayed using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.

Publication date: 21/05/2023

Author: Leonardo Cassari

Reference: doi: 10.3390/ma16103869

MDPI (materials)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.