Fiber templating of poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) for neural tissue engineering

Lauren Flynn, Paul D Dalton, Molly S Shoichet
Biomaterials 2003, 24 (23): 4265-72
We have developed a method to create longitudinally oriented channels within poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (pHEMA) hydrogels for neural tissue engineering applications. Incorporated into an entubulation strategy, these scaffolds have the potential to enhance nerve regeneration after transection injuries of either the spinal cord or the peripheral nerve by increasing the available surface area and providing guidance to extending axons and invading cells. The fabrication process is straightforward and the resultant scaffolds are highly reproducible. Polycaprolactone (PCL) fibers were extruded and embedded in transparent, crosslinked pHEMA gels. Sonication of the pHEMA/PCL composite in acetone resulted in the complete dissolution of the PCL, leaving longitudinally oriented, fiber-free channels in the pHEMA gel. Regulating the size and quantity of the PCL fibers allowed us to control the diameter and number of channels. Small and large channel scaffolds were fabricated and thoroughly characterized. The small channel scaffolds had 142+/-7 channels, with approximately 75% of the channels in the 100-200 micro m size range. The large channel scaffolds had 37+/-1 channels, with approximately 77% of the channels in the 300-400 micro m range. The equilibrium water content (EWC), porosity and compressive modulus were measured for each of the structures. Small and large channel scaffolds had, respectively, EWCs of 55.0+/-1.2% and 56.2+/-2.9%, porosities of 35+/-1% and 40+/-1% and compressive moduli of 191+/-7 and 182+/-4kPa.

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