We consider a mathematical model that describes the leakage of heparin-binding growth factors from an affinity-based delivery system. In the delivery system, heparin binds to a peptide which has been covalently cross-linked to a fibrin matrix. Growth factor in turn binds to the heparin, and growth factor release is governed by both binding and diffusion mechanisms, the purpose of the binding being to slow growth factor release. The governing mathematical model, which in its original formulation consists of six partial differential equations, is reduced to a system of just two equations. It is usually desirable that there be no passive release of growth factor from a device, with all of the growth factor being held in place via binding until such time as it is actively released by invading cells. However, there will inevitably be some passive release, and so it is of interest to identify conditions that will make this release as slow as possible. In this paper, we identify a parameter regime that ensures that at least a fraction of the growth factor will release slowly. It is found that slow release is assured if the matrix is prepared with the concentration of cross-linked peptide greatly exceeding the dissociation constant of heparin from the peptide, and with the concentration of heparin greatly exceeding the dissociation constant of the growth factor from heparin. Also, for the first time, in vitro experimental release data are directly compared with the theoretical release profiles generated by the model. We propose that the two stage release behaviour frequently seen in experiments is due to an initial rapid out-diffusion of free growth factor over a diffusion time scale (typically days), followed by a much slower release of the bound fraction over a time scale depending on both diffusion and binding parameters (frequently months).

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