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Tissue Eng Part B Rev. 2009 Jun;15(2):171-93. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEB.2008.0652.

Engineering on the straight and narrow: the mechanics of nanofibrous assemblies for fiber-reinforced tissue regeneration.

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McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Tissue engineering of fibrous tissues of the musculoskeletal system represents a considerable challenge because of the complex architecture and mechanical properties of the component structures. Natural healing processes in these dense tissues are limited as a result of the mechanically challenging environment of the damaged tissue and the hypocellularity and avascular nature of the extracellular matrix. When healing does occur, the ordered structure of the native tissue is replaced with a disorganized fibrous scar with inferior mechanical properties, engendering sites that are prone to re-injury. To address the engineering of such tissues, we and others have adopted a structurally motivated approach based on organized nanofibrous assemblies. These scaffolds are composed of ultrafine polymeric fibers that can be fabricated in such a way to recreate the structural anisotropy typical of fiber-reinforced tissues. This straight-and-narrow topography not only provides tailored mechanical properties, but also serves as a 3D biomimetic micropattern for directed tissue formation. This review describes the underlying technology of nanofiber production and focuses specifically on the mechanical evaluation and theoretical modeling of these structures as it relates to native tissue structure and function. Applying the same mechanical framework for understanding native and engineered fiber-reinforced tissues provides a functional method for evaluating the utility and maturation of these unique engineered constructs. We further describe several case examples where these principles have been put to test, and discuss the remaining challenges and opportunities in forwarding this technology toward clinical implementation.

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