Production of highly aligned collagen lamellae by combining shear force and thin film confinement
Load-bearing tissues owe their mechanical strength to their highly anisotropic collagenous structure. To date attempts to engineer mechanically strong connective tissue have failed, mainly due to a lack of ability to reproduce the native collagen organization in constructs synthesized by cultured cells in vitro. The ability to influence the orientation of self-assembling collagen molecules to produce highly anisotropic structures has applications ranging from de novo engineering of complex tissues to the production of organized scaffolds for cell culture contact guidance. In this investigation we have used the simple technique of spin-coating to produce highly aligned arrays of collagen fibrils. By a simple modification of the method we have also successfully produced orthogonal collagen lamellae. Alternating collagen lamellae are frequently seen in load-bearing tissues such as cornea, annulus fibrosus, and cortical bone. Culturing of corneal fibroblasts on aligned collagen shows that the cells adopt the organization of fibrils. In this investigation we observed the reversal of fibrillar growth direction or “hook” formation similar to that seen previously in a microfluidic shear flow chamber. Although the results of this investigation clearly show that it is possible to produce small areas (1 cm2) of collagen fibrils with enough alignment to guide fibroblasts, there is evidence that thin film instabilities are likely to be a significant barrier to producing organized collagen fibrils over larger areas. Successful application of this method to produce highly controlled and organized collagenous structures will require the development of techniques to control thin film instability and will be the subject of future work.
Journal: Acta Biomaterialia - Volume 7, Issue 6, June 2011, Pages 2437–2447