One of the most important issues in bone tissue engineering is the search for new materials and processing techniques to create novel scaffolds with 3-D porous structures. Although many properties such as biodegradability and porosity have been considered in designing bone scaffolds, very limited attention is paid to their capillary effect. In nature, capillary effect is ubiquitously used by plants and animals to constantly transport water and nutrients based on morphological and/or chemical gradient structures at multiple length-scales. In this work, we developed a modified freeze-casting technique to prepare ceramic scaffolds with gradient channel structures. The results show that our hydroxyapatite (HA) scaffolds have interconnected gradient channels that mimic the porous network of natural bone. More importantly, we demonstrate that such a scaffold has a very unique capillary behavior that promotes the self-seeding of cells when in contact with a cell solution due to spontaneous capillary flow generated from gradient channel structures. The strategy developed here provides a new avenue for designing "smart" scaffolds with complex porous structures and biological functions that mimic natural tissues.
Bai, H., Wang, D., Delattre, B., Gao, W., De Coninck, J., Li, S., & Tomsia, A. P. (2015). Biomimetic gradient scaffold from ice-templating for self-seeding of cells with capillary effect. Acta Biomaterialia, 20, 113–119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actbio.2015.04.007