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J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2008 Apr;1(2):140-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2007.11.002. Epub 2007 Nov 17.

Engineering functionally graded tissue engineering scaffolds.

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Rapid Prototyping Laboratory, School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, North Spine, 50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798, Singapore.


Tissue Engineering (TE) aims to create biological substitutes to repair or replace failing organs or tissues due to trauma or ageing. One of the more promising approaches in TE is to grow cells on biodegradable scaffolds, which act as temporary supports for the cells to attach, proliferate and differentiate; after which the scaffold will degrade, leaving behind a healthy regenerated tissue. Tissues in nature, including human tissues, exhibit gradients across a spatial volume, in which each identifiable layer has specific functions to perform so that the whole tissue/organ can behave normally. Such a gradient is termed a functional gradient. A good TE scaffold should mimic such a gradient, which fulfils the biological and mechanical requirements of the target tissue. Thus, the design and fabrication process of such scaffolds become more complex and the introduction of computer-aided tools will lend themselves well to ease these challenges. This paper reviews the needs and characterization of these functional gradients and the computer-aided systems used to ease the complexity of the scaffold design stage. These include the fabrication techniques capable of building functionally graded scaffolds (FGS) using both conventional and rapid prototyping (RP) techniques. They are able to fabricate both continuous and discrete types of FGS. The challenge in fabricating continuous FGS using RP techniques lies in the development of suitable computer aided systems to facilitate continuous FGS design. What have been missing are the appropriate models that relate the scaffold gradient, e.g. pore size, porosity or material gradient, to the biological and mechanical requirements for the regeneration of the target tissue. The establishment of these relationships will provide the foundation to develop better computer-aided systems to help design a suitable customized FGS.

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