Electrospinning technique creates scaffolds for wound healing

Researchers at the University of Surrey have developed a new method for electrospinning sponges that can act as 3D scaffolds for skin regeneration.

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Electrospinning is a technique that electrifies droplets of liquid to form fibres from plastics, but which has previously only been used in the lab to make 2D films. According to the Surrey team, this is the first time electrospinning has been employed to create 3D structures that can be produced at scale.

The team used a Taguchi experimental design approach to optimise the electrospinning parameters for forming PCL (polycaprolactone - a biodegradable polymer compatible with human tissue) and PCL/gelatine 3D sponges. They found that the optimum mix of PCL and gelatine produced sponges with a highly porous structure that could support cell viability, essential properties for tissue engineering scaffolds. The work is published in Nanomaterials.

“After spinning these scaffolds, we grew skin cells on them,” said Chloe Howard, from Surrey’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. “Seven days later, they were twice as viable as cells grown on 2D films or mats. They even did better than cells grown on plasma-treated polystyrene – previously, the gold standard. They were very happy cells on our 3D scaffolds!  

“Our findings pave the way for harvesting a patient’s own skin cells and multiplying them. These grafts could treat chronic wounds better and faster.”  

Once the team landed upon the ideal mix of PCL and gelatine, the solution was pumped through a syringe into an electrical field, which stretched it into nanofibres. According to the researchers, the process is simple, scalable, and cheap, and has the potential to be used across other medical applications.   

“Electrospinning is extremely adaptable,” said Dr Vlad Stolojan, Associate Professor at Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute.

“We can mimic the way that muscle fibres behave by spinning fibres that align in the same direction. This technique could one day create artificial skin, bone and cartilage too – helping people recover from wounds quicker, and with better long-term results.”