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Fabrication of polymer and cellular composite constructs for tissue engineering applications

Faculty Mentor: Christopher Anderson

Students: James Ferrie & Pamela Hitscherich

Tissue engineering is a promising aspect of regenerative medicine that is aimed at constructing functional tissues and organs. This requires the integration of living cells, biodegradable materials, and biologically active molecules to promote cell and tissue growth.  Currently, challenges remain for more complex tissues/organs that require concerted efforts from multiple types of cells.  One of the key issues in building replacements for complex tissues/organs is to mimic the organ’s complex natural organization using a mixture of engineered materials and living cells. To this end, a system integrating polymer electrospinning techniques and pressure-driven cell deposition methods is currently under development for forming hybrid tissue constructs with living cells and natural and/or synthetic polymers. The objective of this MUSE 2012 project was to examine the effects of the process parameters on the form and structure.  The effects of changing the working distance on the electrospun mat morphology were investigated using a 7% w/v polyethylene oxide solution. Three electrospun samples were obtained and analyzed at each working distance of 10cm, 15cm, and 20cm. Smooth fibers were obtained and found to have decreasing average fiber diameters with increasing working distance (averages decreased from 310nm to 196nm). Porosities were found to decrease as working distances increased (averages decreased from 1.20 mm2 to 0.60 mm2). Samples were analyzed using a Hitachi S510 scanning electron microscope (SEM).  These findings illustrate that that the electrospinning process has the potential to produce a fibrous mat structure similar to the native ECM, and that properties, such as fiber diameter and porosity, can be tailored to a specific application.  We hope to further our study and examine the changes in fiber morphology as the flow rate is varied as well as study fibers of different polymers and blends which would be more biocompatible and suitable for cell seeding.

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