Extracellular matrices and degradable nanofibers are two very promising materials in the field of tissue engineering; however both of these structures face limitations as tissue engineering scaffolds. Extracellular matrices, such as collagen, gelatin, and laminin, have excellent biocompatibility and allow cell in growth and survival, but structural weakness makes them difficult to handle and greatly limits their uses. Degradable nanofibers support cell attachment and can provide structural support and directional guidance, but individual degradable nanofibers are fragile and have a tendency to form dense fiber bundles which limit cell penetration into the spaces between the nanofibers, especially in the case of aligned nanofibers. To overcome these difficulties, degradable loose nanofibers were embedded in protein matrix in an attempt to fabricate a hybrid scaffold with improved properties, such as improved strength, guidance, spacing among nanofibers, etc. Polycaprolactone (PCL) was used as a model material for degradable nanofibers. Gelatin was employed as a model protein for matrix structure formation. Thin hybrid films (average thickness = 2.78 um) were fabricated by wetting the loose aligned undirectional nanofiber arrays or loose aligned bi-directional nanofiber grids with a gelatin aqueous solution, which also allows for live cell loading into the nanofiber-protein composite if cell are premixed with protein solution or on the surface of the films. Gelatin film alone without nanofiber reinforcement is difficult to handle due to the weakness of the thin membrane. Gelatin films with a fiber density as low as 3% v/v were structurally robust enough for handling, and manipulation into complex shapes. Mechanical testing confirmed that the addition of nanofibers enhanced the strength of gelatin films, in both dry and hydrated state. In vitro testing confirmed that nanofiber reinforced films were biocompatible and provided cells with directional guidance. Results demonstrate the promise of gelatin/PCL nanofiber composites as a tissue scaffolding material.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Mechanics of Materials
- Mechanical Engineering