In this work, a novel method is developed for making nano- and micro- fibrous hydrogels capable of preventing the rejection of implanted materials. This is achieved by either (1) mimicking the native cellular environment, to exert fine control over the cellular response or (2) acting as a protective barrier, to camouflage the foreign nature of a material and evade recognition by the immune system. Comprehensive characterization and in vitro studies described here provide a foundation for developing substrates for use in clinical applications. Hydrogel dextran and poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) fibers are formed via electrospinning, in sizes ranging from nanometers to microns in diameter. While "as-electrospun" fibers are continuous in length, sonication is used to fragment fibers into short fiber "bristles" and generate nano- and micro- fibrous surface coatings over a wide range of topographies. Dex-PAA fibrous surfaces are chemically modified, and then optimized and characterized for non-fouling and ECM-mimetic properties. The non-fouling nature of fibers is verified, and cell culture studies show differential responses dependent upon chemical, topographical and mechanical properties. Dex-PAA fibers are advantageously unique in that (1) a fine degree of control is possible over three significant parameters critical for modifying cellular response: topography, chemistry and mechanical properties, over a range emulating that of native cellular environments, (2) the innate nature of the material is non-fouling, providing an inert background for adding back specific bioactive functionality, and (3) the fibers can be applied as a surface coating or comprise the scaffold itself. This is the first reported work of dex-PAA hydrogel fibers formed via electrospinning and thermal cross-linking, and unique to this method, no toxic solvents or cross-linking agents are needed to create hydrogels or for surface attachment. This is also the first reported work of using sonication to fragment electrospun hydrogel fibers, and in which surface coatings were made via simple electrostatic interaction and dehydration. These versatile features enable fibrous surface coatings to be applied to virtually any material. Results of this research broadly impact the design of biomaterials which contact cells in the body by directing the consequent cell-material interaction.
- Electrospinning of bioactive dex-PAA hydrogel fibers