Scaffolds for tissue engineering

Photomicrographs of cells growing on tissue engineering scaffolds.

To mimic natural tissue, cells of many different phenotypes must develop at pre-determined locations in three dimensions. Tissue engineers try to replicate this development in vitro using scaffolds. To achieve this two different types of tissue-engineering approach are being followed:

Smart scaffolds include chemical and/or biochemical markers that encourage cell differentiation or colonisation. These markers may be localised, in an attempt to prepare fully differentiated tissues in vitro.

Dumb scaffolds are chemically homogeneous. Preparing tissues in vitro using these relies on ‘smart cells’ to differentiate according to their location in the 3D matrix, or using simple strategies, such as inoculating different areas or surfaces of the scaffold with different types of cells.

We are also engaged in developing novel synthetic scaffolds – this work draws on the expertise of colleagues in The Polymer Centre at Sheffield University. Projects currently include electrospun fibre networks, and hydrogels.

See 3D fabrication methods for polymer tissue engineering scaffolds for more information

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