Materials

Due to the versatility and fine tunable technology, there are a wide range of electrospinning materials that can be applied. In the biomedical field the choice of the electrospinning materials are of fundamental importance. Biomedical products are based on degradable materials for short- to mid-term implants to non-degradable for permanent implants, such as dialysis shunts.

IME Technologies is the partner of choice for the development and production of your medical device. Thanks to our long and well established experience in electrospinning, we can support you in the production of electrospun products, based on approved natural, synthetic and supramolecular polymers. IME Technologies’ machines are designed to control every step of the electrospinning production, allowing the customer for example to fine tune the fiber diameter of their products from the nano- to the micrometer scale. This allows to produce structures mimicking the natural composition of human tissues, or stimulating the cells to follow a certain orientation or positioning close to their natural state in the human body.

In general, there a two groups of polymer electrospinning materials to be considered for use: the naturally derived and the synthetic polymers.

Natural polymers for electrospinning

electrospinning materials

Silk example | scale: 3µm

The list of natural polymers which have been electrospun for biomedical application is extensive. Polysaccharides, such as alginate, cellulose, chitin, chitosan, hyaluronic acid, starch, dextran, and heparin, silk, gelatin and fibrinogen to mention the most common ones. In contrast to synthetic polymers, these materials provide many of the natural instructive cues for cell attachment and proliferation. They are considered as biodegradable, though biosafety should be ensured prior to their use. On the other hand, the natural polymers demonstrate batch to batch variation and the electrospinning process is less versatile since there is a limited choice of solvents which do not compromise the integrity of the polymers. The latter also limits the control over the mechanical properties, the design and biodegradability of the resulting scaffold.

Synthetic polymers for electrospinning

electrospinning materials

PCL example | scale: 40µm

In contrast to these natural polymers most synthetic polymers can be readily dissolved and electrospun in a broader range of solvents as well as directly out of their molten state. This offers more possibilities and design freedom to obtain scaffolds tailored to desired tissue requirements. The most commonly known and used synthetic polymers in tissue engineering are the poly(α-hydroxy acids), such as the lactic -and glycolic acids ((PHA, PHB, PLA, PLGA) as well as poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) and their copolymers. The poly(α-hydroxy acids), with poly(lactic acid-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) as most investigated polymer due to its variable degradability, and PCL are representatives of biodegradable polymers. They degrade mainly by hydrolysis in a few weeks to several months, depending on the molecular structure, molecular weight, fiber morphology, etc. It is evident that the degradation products of the biodegradable polymers must be non-toxic and do not provoke any foreign body response.

In addition, there are man-made polymeric systems, such as polyurethanes (PU), polyphosphazenes or supramolecular polymers, specifically designed to meet desired mechanical properties, cell responses and integration of functionalities, such as peptides or growth factors.

Supramolecular polymers for electrospinning

electrospinning materials

Supramolecular example | scale: 25µm

Supramolecular polymers are a class of materials gaining a lot of interest in the last decade in the regenerative medicine field. Their core is based on synthetic polymers which present on each chain chemical groups able to interact with each other via hydrogen bonding. This characteristic gives to the resulting electrospun product great mechanical properties and the possibility to further functionalize the materials with bioactive molecules while in solution.

IME Technologies’ close proximity and strong connections with Eindhoven University of Technology granted to the company a solid background and great expertise in the electrospinning of supramolecular materials for different applications such as heart valves and vascular grafts.

All the mentioned biopolymers can be combined with bioactive molecules on the surface or encapsulated within the fibers. The encapsulated compound will be eluted over time on the application site.

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