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The hypothesis of this research was that implants of poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) microspheres loaded with bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2) and distributed in a freeze-dried carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) matrix would produce more new bone than would matrix implants of non-protein-loaded microspheres or matrix implants of only CMC. To test this hypothesis it was necessary to fashion microsphere-loaded CMC implants that were simple to insert, fit precisely into a defect, and would not elicit swelling. Microspheres were produced via a water-in-oil-in-water double-emulsion system and were loaded with rhBMP-2 by soaking them in a buffered solution of the protein at a concentration of 5.4 mg protein per gram of PLGA. Following recovery of the loaded microspheres by lyophilization matrices for implantation were prepared by lyophilizing a suspension of the microspheres in 2% CMC in flat-bottom tissue culture plates. Similar matrices were made with 2% CMC and with 2% CMC containing blank microspheres. A full-thickness calvarial defect model in New Zealand white rabbits was used to assess bone growth. Implants fit the defect well allowing for direct application. Six weeks postsurgery, defects were collected and processed for undecalcified histology. In vitro, 60% of the loaded rhBMP-2 released from devices or microspheres in 5 to 7 days. With the unembedded microspheres releasing faster than those embedded in CMC In vivo. the rhBMP-2 microspheres greatly enhanced bone healing, whereas nonloaded PLGA microspheres in the CMC implants had little effect. The results showed that a lyophilized device of rhBMP-2 PLGA microspheres in CMC was an effective implantable protein-delivery system for the use in bone repair.