In the past couple decades, researchers across the spectrum have realized that solutions to complex medical and engineering problems can be derived from insights into natural systems. Biomimicry, the practice of employing structural, ecological or behavioral tactics of biological systems in modern technological applications,1 has seen surging popularity since. One such technological advancement achieved through insights from biomimicry is the use of Nanofibers in medicine and biomedical research.
What are Nanofibres?
Nanofibers are classically defined as fibers made up of natural or synthetic materials with a thread diameter of less than 100 nanometers (1×10-9 meters).2 While the concept of nanofiber synthesis has gained popularity recently, it has been experimentally possible since 1900 when the first modern electrospinning equipment was patented,3 which remains to date the most common method for synthesizing nanofibers. Electrospinning is a method that uses electric charge to generate and dispel threads of polymer solutions (natural like silk and collagen or synthetic like polyglycolates, etc) at a controlled rate to form nanofibers. 4 This method is robust and popular due to its cost-effectiveness and has been supplemented over the years by new and improved syringe pump systems that allow precision control of fiber synthesis.
Several meta-analyses have confirmed the potential for electrospinning in nanofiber synthesis for a plethora of applications, ranging from the defense sector to biomedical research.5 Chemyx laboratories, with their programmable range of motorized syringe pumps, can provide versatility and reliability in the process of electrospinning for nanofiber synthesis, specifically for research purposes. Chemyx syringe pumps have already been used for nanofiber synthesis in several research articles; most interestingly, those focused on tissue engineering, the increasingly popular biomedical process of growing and/or regenerating tissues in a synthetic scaffold.
Use of Nanofibres in Tissue Engineering
Higher-order multicellular organisms, like humans, rely on tissue integrity and proper function for all aspects of survival and bodily processes. Tissues are made up of functionally specialized cells that are typically organized in an architecture made up of supporting cells and proteinaceous scaffolds called extracellular matrix (ECM). This ECM has been shown to be crucial for tissue development and structural integrity, such that disrupting the ECM can cause cell death and loss of tissue function.6 The ECM is also made up of polymeric substances like collagens, elastins and laminin.7 Mimicking this polymeric scaffold in vitro allows researchers to generate organs outside of the body and can be extremely helpful not just to understand tissue development but also tissue-related diseases. Electrospinning for nanofiber synthesis has been especially useful in the bio-engineering of bone tissue, due to the inherent complexity and uniqueness of this tissue.
Bone graft surgeries are the second most common type of transplants performed annually across the world.8 These numbers are likely to hold over time due to the frequency of bone disorders; about a 10 million cases of osteoporosis alone in the US.9 Although minor bone and skeletal injuries can heal over time, major assaults like osteoporosis or resection treatment in bone cancer patients have a high demand for safe and reliable bone grafting methods. To cater to these demands, researchers have been trying to advance efforts in bone or osseous tissue engineering, where a patient’s osteoblasts (bone cells) can be used to generate entire tissue in vitro using a scaffold.10 Since the main limitation in this process is proper scaffold materials, studies have focused on nanofibers for generating an ECM-like scaffold for bone tissue engineering.
Applications of Syringe pumps in Bone Tissue Engineering
Electrospun nanofibers of a polycaprolactone-nanodiamond composite have been reported to not only improve scaffold integrity and reinforcement but also allow prospective applications in drug delivery due to nanodiamond incorporation.11 The experimental methods utilize accurate dispensing of the composite solution at a precise flow rate and concentration through a Chemyx syringe pump. Using a similar Electrospinning protocol, another study has reported the use of PLGA (a polyglycolate) nanofibers in propagation and differentiation of bone marrow stem cells for tissue engineering.12 The investigation demonstrates that this nanofiber scaffold allows proper cell growth and tissue generation in a manner that is consistent with tissue growth on natural collagen ECM. Moreover, in vivo research in mice with calvarial defects (skull bone dysmorphia) has shown that scaffolds generated with a chitosan-genipin mineralized nanofiber can efficiently allow mouse stem cell growth and bone regeneration, paving way for serious therapeutic potential for electrospun nanofibers.13
The constant demand for cutting-edge bone tissue engineering methods will benefit from sophisticated and robust methods for nanofiber synthesis. Due to their reliable technology and reputation, Chemyx syringe pumps are likely to play a vital role in this aspect of scientific research.
- What is Biomimicry – Biomimicry Institute. Retrieved from https://biomimicry.org/what-is-biomimicry/
- LF Nascimento, M., S Araujo, E., R Cordeiro, E., HP de Oliveira, A., P de Oliveira, H. (2015) A literature investigation about electrospinning and nanofibers: historical trends, current status and future challenges. Recent patents on nanotechnology, 9(2):76–85.
- J. F. Cooley. Improved Methods of and Apparatus for Electrically Separating the Relatively Volatile Liquid Component from the Component of Relatively Fixed Substances of Composite Fluids. United Kingdom Patent G.B. 6,385 (1900).
- Boys, C. (1887) On the production, properties, and some suggested uses of the finest threads. Proceedings of the Physical Society of London, 9(1):8.
- Ramakrishna, S., Fujihara, K., Teo, W. E., Yong, T., Ma, Z., Ramaseshan, R. (2006) Electrospun nanofibers: solving global issues. Materials Today, 9(3):40–50.
- Meredith, J. E., Fazeli, B., Schwartz, M. A. (1993) The extracellular matrix as a cell survival factor. Molecular biology of the cell, 4(9):953–61.
- Frantz, C., Stewart, K. M., Weaver, V. M. (2010) The extracellular matrix at a glance. Journal of Cell Science, 123(24):4195–200.
- Giannoudis, P. V., Dinopoulos, H., Tsiridis, E. (2005) Bone substitutes: an update. Injury, 36(3):S20–S27.
- Osteoporosis Fast Facts – National Osteoporosis Foundation. Retrieved from https://cdn.nof.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Osteoporosis-Fast-Facts.pdf
- Yang, S., Leong, K. F., Du, Z., Chua, C. K. (2001) The design of scaffolds for use in tissue engineering. Part I. Traditional factors. Tissue engineering, 7(6):679–89.
- Salaam, A. D., and Dean, D. (2010) Electrospun polycaprolactone-nanodiamond composite scaffolds for bone tissue engineering. In ASME 2010 First Global Congress on NanoEngineering for Medicine and Biology (pp. 367–70). American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
- Lyu, S., Huang, C., Yang, H., Zhang, X. (2013) Electrospun fibers as a scaffolding platform for bone tissue repair. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 31(9):1382–9.
- Frohbergh, M. E. (2013) Electrospun hydroxyapatite-containing chitosan nanofibers crosslinked with genipin for bone tissue engineering applications. Drexel University.