Working with artificial fibers to create engineered scaffolds, which are seeded with stem cells that grow tissue, researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and North Carolina State University (NCSU) are working to make the process cheaper and more scalable.
According to a story on the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering website, UNC College of Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa; Stephen A. Tuin, a doctoral graduate from her research group at the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC and NCSU, and Behnam Pourdeyhimi of the NCSU College of Textiles have published research that shows how three common textile creation methods—meltblowing, spunbonding and carding—can produce effective scaffolds that retain biomimetic behavior, allowing for mechanical properties that better mimic native tissue.
The report notes the process uses artificial fibers to create the scaffolds; the scaffold eventually degrades away, leaving natural tissue in its place. Typically, nonwoven materials are used in the scaffolding process, and they’re usually bonded through a process called electrospinning—a process in which an electrostatic field draws nanofibers from a solution and bonds them. This process is effective, but large-scale production isn’t currently efficient or cost-effective.
Meltblowing is a technique by which nonwoven materials are created using a molten polymer drawn through tiny gaps in order to create continuous fibers. Spunbond materials are made in a similar way, though in this case the fibers are drawn into a web while in a solid state. Carding involves the separation of fibers through the use of rollers, forming a type of web.
Author Ryan Owens reports that Loboa and her colleagues used the techniques to create polylactic acid scaffolds seeded with human adipose-derived stem cells and cultured in complete growth medium for a week. They spent three weeks studying viable cell proliferation within the scaffold and cell differentiation along both a fat and bone pathway. The results illustrated that the three scaffold manufacturing methods proved as viable if not more so than electrospinning for promoting desired cell viability, proliferation and differentiation.
The research showed that a small sample of electrospun material could cost between $2 and $5, whereas the cost would be $1 to $2, 30 cents to $3 and 10 cents to $3 for meltblown, spunbond and carded scaffolds, respectively.
The next step is testing how the different scaffolds perform once implanted in animals. The goal eventually is to bring such nonwoven products to clinical practice by making them increasingly efficient and cost-effective.