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The biofabrication of large scaffolds from natural biomaterials into complex 3D shapes with controllable microarchitecture remains a major challenge. Freeze-drying (or lyophilization) is a technique used to create bioactive scaffolds with a porous architecture and is typically only used to generate scaffolds in planar 3D geometries. Here we report the development of a new biofabrication process to form a collagen-based scaffold into a large, complex geometry which has a large height to width ratio, and a controlled porous microarchitecture. This biofabrication process was validated through the successful development of a heart valve shaped scaffold, fabricated from a collagen-glycosaminoglycan co-polymer. Notably, despite the significant challenges in using freeze-drying to create such a structure, the resultant scaffold had a uniform, homogeneous pore architecture throughout. This was achieved through optimization of the freeze-drying mold and freezing parameters. We believe this to be the first demonstration of using freeze-drying to create a large, complex scaffold geometry with a controlled, porous architecture using natural materials. This study validates the potential of using freeze-drying for development of organ-specific scaffold geometries for tissue engineering applications, which up until now might not have been considered feasible.
Brougham, C.M., Levingstone, T.J., Shen, N., Cooney, G.M., Flanagan, T.C., Jockenhoevel, S., O'Brien, F.J. (2017). Freeze-Drying as a Novel Biofabrication Method for Achieving a Controlled Microarchitecture within Large, Complex Natural Biomaterial Scaffolds. Advanced Healthcare Materials, vol. 6, no. 21. doi:10.1002/adhm.201700598