Salt Fusion: An Approach to Improve Pore Interconnectivity within Tissue Engineering Scaffolds
Macroporous scaffolds composed of biodegradable polymers have found extensive use as three-dimensional substrates either for in vitro cell seeding followed by transplantation, or as conductive substrates for direct implantation in vivo. Methods abound for creation of macroporous scaffolds for tissue engineering, and common methods typically employ a solid porogen within a three-dimensional polymer matrix to create a well-defined pore size, pore structure, and total scaffold porosity. This study
... orosity. This study describes an approach to impart improved pore interconnectivity to polymer scaffolds for tissue engineering by partially fusing the solid porogen together prior to creation of a continuous polymer matrix. Three dimensional, porous scaffolds of the copolymer 85:15 poly(lactide-co-glycolide) were fabricated via either a solvent casting/particulate leaching process, or a gas foaming/particulate leaching process. Prior to creation of a continuous polymer matrix the NaCl crystals, which serve as the solid porogen, are partially fused via treatment in 95% humidity. Scanning electron micrographs clearly display fused salt crystals and an enhancement in pore interconnectivity in the salt fused scaffolds prepared via both solvent casting and gas foaming, and the extent of pore interconnectivity is enhanced with longer treatment times. Fusion of salt crystal for 24 h increased the radius of curvature of salt crystals, and led to a twofold increase in the compressive modulus of solvent cast scaffolds (total porosity of 97 6 1%). Fusion of NaCl crystals prior to gas foaming resulted in a decrease in scaffold compressive modulus from 277 6 60k Pa to 187 6 30k Pa (total porosity of 94 6 1%). The resulting highly interconnected scaffolds have implications for facilitated cell migration, abundant cell-cell interaction, and potentially improved neural and vascular growth within tissue engineering scaffolds.