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Biomaterials. 2008 May;29(15):2348-58. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2008.01.032. Epub 2008 Mar 3.

The potential to improve cell infiltration in composite fiber-aligned electrospun scaffolds by the selective removal of sacrificial fibers.

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  • 1McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, United States.

Abstract

Aligned electrospun scaffolds are promising tools for engineering fibrous musculoskeletal tissues, as they reproduce the mechanical anisotropy of these tissues and can direct ordered neo-tissue formation. However, these scaffolds suffer from a slow cellular infiltration rate, likely due in part to their dense fiber packing. We hypothesized that cell ingress could be expedited in scaffolds by increasing porosity, while at the same time preserving overall scaffold anisotropy. To test this hypothesis, poly(epsilon-caprolactone) (a slow-degrading polyester) and poly(ethylene oxide) (a water-soluble polymer) were co-electrospun from two separate spinnerets to form dual-polymer composite fiber-aligned scaffolds. Adjusting fabrication parameters produced aligned scaffolds with a full range of sacrificial (PEO) fiber contents. Tensile properties of scaffolds were functions of the ratio of PCL to PEO in the composite scaffolds, and were altered in a predictable fashion with removal of the PEO component. When seeded with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), increases in the starting sacrificial fraction (and porosity) improved cell infiltration and distribution after three weeks in culture. In pure PCL scaffolds, cells lined the scaffold periphery, while scaffolds containing >50% sacrificial PEO content had cells present throughout the scaffold. These findings indicate that cell infiltration can be expedited in dense fibrous assemblies with the removal of sacrificial fibers. This strategy may enhance in vitro and in vivo formation and maturation of functional constructs for fibrous tissue engineering.

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