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Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2006 Jan 15;364(1838):263-81. doi: 10.1098/rsta.2005.1689.

Hierarchical porous materials for tissue engineering.

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  • 1Department of Materials, Imperial College London, South Kensington campus, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


Biological organisms have evolved to produce hierarchical three-dimensional structures with dimensions ranging from nanometres to metres. Replicating these complex living hierarchical structures for the purpose of repair or replacement of degenerating tissues is one of the great challenges of chemistry, physics, biology and materials science. This paper describes how the use of hierarchical porous materials in tissue engineering applications has the potential to shift treatments from tissue replacement to tissue regeneration. The criteria that a porous material must fulfil to be considered ideal for bone tissue engineering applications are listed. Bioactive glass foam scaffolds have the potential to fulfil all the criteria, as they have a hierarchical porous structure similar to that of trabecular bone, they can bond to bone and soft tissue and they release silicon and calcium ions that have been found to up-regulate seven families of genes in osteogenic cells. Their hierarchical structure can be tailored for the required rate of tissue bonding, resorption and delivery of dissolution products. This paper describes how the structure and properties of the scaffolds are being optimized with respect to cell response and that tissue culture techniques must be optimized to enable growth of new bone in vitro.

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