Hydrolytic degradation and mechanical stability of poly(Ɛ-caprolactone)/reduced graphene oxide membranes as scaffolds for in vitro neural tissue regeneration
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The present work studies the functional behavior of novel poly(Ɛ-caprolactone) (PCL) membranes functionalized with reduced graphene oxide (rGO) nanoplatelets under simulated in vitro culture conditions (phosphate buffer solution (PBS) at 37 º C) during 1 year, in order to elucidate their applicability as scaffolds for in vitro neural regeneration. The morphological, chemical, and DSC results demonstrated that high internal porosity of the membranes facilitated water permeation and procured an accelerated hydrolytic degradation throughout the bulk pathway. Therefore, similar molecular weight reduction, from 80 kDa to 33 kDa for the control PCL, and to 27 kDa for PCL/rGO membranes, at the end of the study, was observed. After 1 year of hydrolytic degradation, though monomers coming from the hydrolytic cleavage of PCL diffused towards the PBS medium, the pH was barely affected, and the rGO nanoplatelets mainly remained in the membranes which envisaged low cytotoxic effect. On the other hand, the presence of rGO nanomaterials accelerated the loss of mechanical stability of the membranes. However, it is envisioned that the gradual degradation of the PCL/rGO membranes could facilitate cells infiltration, interconnectivity, and tissue formation.