The Goldlilocks principle—not too large, not too small, just right—has shown up in the most unlikely places including, now, nanofibre-based scaffolding. Researchers in the United States have developed a technique for creating scaffolds from nano-sized fibres that are dense enough to guide tissue to grow in an organised way but not so tightly packed that cellular colonisation is inhibited, a common problem that has slowed adoption of nanofibre-based scaffolds in orthopaedics. The research is described as a “step forward in the engineering of load-bearing fibrous tissues” in an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The technology will eventually find widespread applications in regenerative medicine, according to researchers Robert L. Mauck, PhD, professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering, and Brendon M. Baker, PhD, previously a graduate student in the Mauck lab at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
“A popular approach for treating ACL and meniscus tears of the knee, rotator cuff injuries, and Achilles tendon ruptures has involved the use of scaffolds made from nano-sized fibres, which can guide tissue to grow in an organised way,” notes the article. Cells don’t like to feel crowded, however, and balk at colonising a scaffold that is too tightly wound. Mauck and Baker developed and validated a technology that is capable of striking just the right balance.
The researchers used the venerable electrospinning technique to produce two distinct fibre types: a slow-degrading polymer and a water-soluble one that can be selectively removed to fine-tune the spacing between fibres. The electrically charged solution of dissolved polymers erupts as a fine spray of fibres that fall like snow onto a rotating drum and collect as a stretchable fabric. This textile then can be shaped for medical applications and cells can be added, or it can be implanted directly into damaged tissue for neighbouring cells to colonise.
For more details about this technology and its applications, read the complete article on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences website.Norbert Sparrow