Decellularized collagen is a cool material that is used to support the growth of new cells that is then implanted into patients to replace diseased or damaged tissues. It has a few drawbacks since it’s not water soluble, and the methods that are normally used to process it end up weakening its fibrous structure.
Researchers at Tufts University have developed a technique that preserves that strength by initially slicing decellularized tendon into very thin sheets and stacking them so that each sheet’s fibers run perpendicular to the one below it. These blocks can then be seeded with cells of your choice, with the result being much stronger and durable tissue for implants.
The researchers also created tubular scaffolding by rolling layers of collagen sheets around Teflon-coated glass rods. The sheets were layered so that fibers ran along the length and the circumference of the rods. This process yielded tubes that were found to be stronger than similar tubes made of reconstituted collagen. They also maintained their highly aligned fiber structure.
“Alignment gives the scaffold the ability to guide the direction and orientation of cell growth,” says Xu, who also has a faculty appointment at Tufts School of Medicine, “This capability is beneficial for tissue engineering applications where biocompatibility and the ability to guide unidirectional nerve growth are both desired, such as prosthetic or tissue engineering-based blood vessels or nerve conduits.”
Tufts press release: Slice, stack, roll: A nanofiber method for collagen scaffolds
Study in Advanced Healthcare Materials: Slicing, Stacking and Rolling: Fabrication of Nanostructured Collagen Constructs from Tendon Sections