Electrospinning is a method that uses an electrical charge to draw nanofibers from a solution of dissolved polymers. The charge makes the solution erupt as a fine spray of fibers which land on a rotating drum and collect to form a nanofiber mesh. The mesh can be shaped for specific applications, cells can be added, or it can be directly implanted as a patch on damaged tissue for cells to colonize around.
University of Pennsylvania researchers used electrospinning to make a 3D tissue that is said to have tensile properties closely matching human meniscus tissue. The 3D tissue acts as a scaffold to align cells and direct the formation of an organized extracellular matrix by collagen-producing cells.
The team’s 3D patch is a breakthrough in bioengineered replacements for collagen-based tissues that require a strong matrix such as tendons and ligaments. Older composite formulations created 3D tissues that were so tightly packed that cells couldn’t colonize around them. To create the loose structure needed to align cells and direct cells to lay down new tissue, the team added proportionally more of the water-soluble polymer and less slow-degrading polymer.
Researcher Brendon M. Baker of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine took this image of a fibrous biomaterial composed of structural (red) and water-soluble (green) electrospun polymeric nanofibers. Fluid enters from the right and dissolves the green fibers to create a looser network.
More information: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/08/07/1206962109