The Iowa State researchers have developed an approach that uses microfluidic fabrication methods to pump polycaprolactone (PCL) through tiny channels to produce microfibers. The fibers are 2.6 to 36.5 millionths of a meter in diameter. Their shapes can be controlled. So can their surface patterns. They’re also flexible, biocompatible and biodegradable.
“The novelty here is the fabrication method,” Hashemi said. “We employ hydrodynamic forces to influence the orientation of molecules for the fabrication of these fiber structures that have different properties along different directions.”
The Iowa State researchers demonstrated that neural stem cells were able to attach and align on the microfiber scaffold.
“In this study, cell death was minimal, and cell proliferation was affected by changing the features of the fibrous scaffold,” the researchers reported in their paper.
That finding has the researchers thinking their technology could be a tool that helps tissue engineers find ways to regenerate nerve cells and other tissues:
“By mimicking the microenvironment of the nervous system, regeneration can be enhanced due to biological and chemical cues in the environment,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “In addition, the PCL fibers can be applied in regeneration of other tissues such as muscle, tendons and blood vessels.”