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Electrospun ECM macromolecules as biomimetic scaffold for regenerative medicine: challenges for preserving conformation and bioactivity

1 Politecnico di Milano, Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “G. Natta”, Via Mancinelli 7, 20131, Milano, Italy
2 INSTM—National Interuniversity Consortium of Materials Science and Technology, Via G. Giusti, 9-50121, Firenze, Italy

Topical Section: Biological and biomimetic materials

The extracellular matrix (ECM), the physiological scaffold for cells in vivo, provides structural support to cells and guaranties tissue integrity. At the same time, however, it represents an extremely complex and finely tuned signaling environment that contributes in regulating tissue homeostasis and repair. ECM can bind, release and activate signaling molecules and also modulate cell reaction to soluble factors. Cell-ECM interactions, as a result, are recognized to be critical for physiological wound healing, and consequently in guiding regeneration. Due to its complexity, mimicking ECM chemistry and architecture appears a straightforward strategy to exploit the benefits of a biologically recognizable and cell-instructive environment. As ECM consists primarily of sub-micrometric fibers, electrospinning, a simple and versatile technique, has attracted the majority efforts aimed at reprocessing of biologically occurring molecules. However, the ability to trigger specific cellular behavior is likely to depend on both the chemical and conformational properties of biological molecules. As a consequence, when ECM macromolecules are electrospun, investigating the effect of processing on their structure, and the extent to which their potential in directing cellular behavior is preserved, appears crucial. In this perspective, this review explores the electrospinning of ECM molecules specifically focusing on the effect of processing on polymer structure and on in vitro or in vivo experiments designed to confirm the maintenance of their instructive role.
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