Scaffolds are materials that have been engineered to cause desirable cellular interactions to contribute to the formation of new functional tissues for medical purposes. Cells are often seeded into these structures capable of supporting three-dimensional tissue formation.
Extracellular Matrix (ECM)
The Extracellular Matrix (ECM) is a heterogeneous, connective network composed of fibrous glycoproteins that coordinate in vivo to provide the physical scaffolding, mechanical stability, and biochemical cues necessary for tissue morphogenesis and homeostasis.
Components of Extracellular Matrix
The extracellular matrix is mostly made up of a few key ingredients: water, fibrous proteins, and proteoglycans. The main fibrous proteins that build the extracellular matrix are collagens, elastins, and laminins.
Roles of Fibrous Protein
Collagen – Stretch resistance and tensile strength (i.e. scar formation during wound healing)
Elastin – Stretch and Resilience
Fibronectin – Cell migration and positioning within the ECM, and cell division and specialization in various tissues
Laminin – Sheet-like networks that will ‘glue’ together dissimilar types of tissue
Natural Polymers occur in nature and can be extracted. They are often water-based. Examples of naturally occurring polymers are silk, wool, DNA, cellulose and proteins. Natural Polymers such as collagens, elastin, and fibrinogen make up much of the body’s native extracellular matrix (ECM).
This ECM provides structure and mechanical integrity to tissues, as well as communicating with the cellular components it supports to help facilitate and regulate daily cellular processes and wound healing. An ideal tissue engineering scaffold would not only replicate the structure of this ECM, but would also replicate the many functions that the ECM performs.
Synthetic Polymers are human-made polymers derived from petroleum oil. From the utility point of view, they can be classified into three main categories: thermoplastics, elastomers and synthetic fibers. They are commonly found in a variety of products worldwide.
Due to their availability and controllable degradation rate, synthetic biomaterials are also considered to be potential candidates in Tissue Engineering. Poly Lactic Acid (PLA), Poly Glycolic Acid (PGA), and Poly Lactic-co-Glycolic Acid (PLGA) copolymers are among the most commonly used synthetic polymers in Tissue Engineering.
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