Scanning Microscopy


Hydrogels are a class of synthetic material, composed of a polymer-water matrix and have been proposed as tissue substitutes and drug delivery vehicles. Polyethylene oxide (PEO) hydrogels were synthesized and used to produce coated wires and conduits for baboon blood compatibility studies. Blood-material interactions were studied both by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and 111In labeled platelet deposition.

SEM processing modifications were first evaluated in order to reduce shrinkage and surface distortion incurred during sample preparation of these high water content materials. Pretreatment with 1% tannic acid reduced bulk shrinkage associated with critical point drying by 10-20%. This effect is small, nevertheless, it prevented major sample disruption.

Coated guidewires were exposed to baboon blood for one hour in the inferior vena cava and conduits were placed for either 30 or 60 minutes in an ex vivo femoral arteriovenous shunt. Reference materials included Gore-tex®, polyethylene and silica-free polydimethyl siloxane (PDMS). In the guidewire studies, 111In labeled platelet levels were highest on Gore-tex® (6568.97 platelets/ 1000 μm2) and large thrombotic deposits were well visualized by SEM. Formulations containing PEO had low levels of platelet deposition and little evidence of platelet activation was noted by SEM. Shunt studies demonstrated that materials of high PEO content and molecular weight had the lowest levels of platelet deposition. After 60 minutes of blood flow, mean platelet deposition on PDMS and Gore-tex® was 50 and 1000 fold higher than on a network composed of 65% PEO 20,000 (p < 0.05). SEM confirmed these findings.

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