Nanocellulose for Biomedical Applications : Modification, Characterisation and Biocompatibility Studies

Abstract: In the past decade there has been increasing interest in exploring the use of nanocellulose in medicine. However, the influence of the physicochemical properties of nanocellulose on the material´s biocompatibility has not been fully investigated. In this thesis, thin films of nanocellulose from wood (NFC) and from Cladophora algae (CC) were modified by the addition of charged groups on their surfaces and the influence of these modifications on the material´s physicochemical properties and on cell responses in vitro was studied.The results indicate that the introduction of charged groups on the surface of NFC and CC results in films with decreased surface area, smaller average pore size and a more compact structure compared with the films of unmodified nanocelluloses. Furthermore, the fibres in the carboxyl-modified CC films were uniquely aggregated and aligned, a state which tended to become more prevalent with increased surface-group density.The biocompatibility studies showed that NFC films containing hydroxypropyltrime-thylammonium (HPTMA) groups presented a more cytocompatible surface than unmodified NFC and carboxymethylated NFC regarding human dermal fibroblasts. Carboxymethyl groups resulted in NFC films that promoted inflammation, while HPTMA groups had a passivating effect in terms of inflammatory response. On the other hand, both modified CC films behaved as inert materials in terms of the inflammatory response of monocytes/macrophages and, under pro-inflammatory stimuli, they suppressed secretion of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α, with the effects of the carboxylated CC film more pronounced than those of the HPTMA CC material. Carboxyl CC films showed good cytocompatibility with fibroblasts and osteoblastic cells. However, it was necessary to reach a threshold value in carboxyl-group density to obtain CC films with cytocompatibility comparable to that of commercial tissue culture material. The studies presented here highlight the ability of the nanocellulose films to modulate cell behaviour and provide a foundation for the design of nanocellulose-based materials that trigger specific cell responses. The bioactivity of nanocellulose may be optimized by careful tuning of the surface properties.The outcomes of this thesis are foreseen to contribute to our fundamental understanding of the biointerface phenomena between cells and nanocellulose as well as to enable engineering of bioinert, bioactive, and bioadaptive materials.