All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Vinoy Thomas

Advisory Committee Members

Robin Foley

Subhadra Gupta

Amjad Javed

Charles Monroe

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2017

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Engineering

Abstract

Fibrous materials received a great deal of interest in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine due to the beneficial cell-interactions and tunable properties for various biomedical applications. These materials are highly advantageous as they provide a large surface area for cellular attachment, proliferation, high porosity values for cellular in-growth, and the ability to modify the membrane to achieve desired responses to both mechanical loading as well as environmental stimuli. A prominent method currently used to fabricate such membranes is electrospinning which uses electrostatic forces to produce fibers on the range of nanometers giving them high morphological saliency to the native extra cellular matrix (ECM). These fibers are also advantageous mechanically with strength and flexibility due to their larger aspect ratio when compared to larger diameter micro/macro fibers. While this spinning technique has many advantages and has seen the most quantity of research in recent years, it does have its own set of drawbacks. Among them is the use cytotoxic solvents during processing which must be fully removed before implantation. In addition, since the fiber produced have smaller diameters, the resulting average pore-size of the scaffold is decreased which in turn hinders cellular penetration into the bulk scaffold. In this work, we have proposed and characterized a novel method called wet-lay process for the rapid fabrication of fibrous membranes for tissue scaffolds. Wet-laying is a method common to textiles and paper industry but unexplored for tissue scaffolds. Short fibers are first suspended in an aqueous bath and homogeneously dispersed using shear force. After draining away the aqueous solution, a nonwoven fibro-porous membrane is deposited onto the draining screen. The implementation of wet-laid membranes into weak hydrogel matrices has shown a reinforcement effect for the composite. Further analyses were carried out to determine the synergistic effect that fiber-length and fiber-concentration have on the dispersion of the fibers during fabrication and cellular response as well as the mechanical reinforcement within a hydrogel matrix. Finally, a method is proposed and validated to both strengthen the as-fabricated membrane as well as to introduce a complex pore-size gradient throughout the scaffold so that cellular response on the bi-layer scaffolds can be modified according to a particular application.

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