Onur Bas; Davide D'Angella; Jeremy G. Baldwin; Nathan J. Castro; Felix M. Wunner; Navid T. Saidy; Stefan Kollmannsberger; Alessandro Reali; Ernst Rank; Elena M. De-Juan-Pardo; Dietmar W. Hutmacher
An integrated design, material and fabrication platform for engineering biomechanically and biologically functional soft tissues
The development of advanced soft materials can be faciliated through bioinspired design methodologies. Translating the fibre-reinforcement approach of nature, biologically functional soft network composites with enhanced compressive mechanical properties have been achieved. However, design and fabrication concepts addressing the mechanical requirements of tissues which are predominantly functioning under tensile loading (e.g., skin, tendon, ligament, muscle, etc.) are under studied in the current literature. In this communication, to our knowledge for the first time we describe and validate a design library combined with a innovative biomaterials & 3D printing platform which meets the requirements for tissue engineering applications subjected to tensile loads. Herein, we present a library of fibre elements to be used as building blocks for the development of tailored fibrous networks. These fibrous networks are then combined with a tunable interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) system that mimics highly flexible natural extracellular matrices (ECMs). Our holistic design allows the selection and fabrication of customised reinforcing fibre networks and matrices to match both complex tissue-specific biomechanical and biological properties. We mechanically validate our approach through an exemplary soft network composite model which is charactarized to be flexible yet ~125 times stronger (E = 3.19 MPa) and ~100 times tougher (WExt = ~2000 kJ m-3) than its bare hydrogel counterpart.