Influence of freezing rate on pore structure in freeze-dried collagen-GAG scaffolds.

The cellular structure of collagen-glycosaminoglycan (CG) scaffolds used in tissue engineering must be designed to meet a number of constraints with respect to biocompatibility, degradability, pore size, pore structure, and specific surface area. The conventional freeze-drying process for fabricating CG scaffolds creates variable cooling rates throughout the scaffold during freezing, producing a heterogeneous matrix pore structure with a large variation in average pore diameter at different locations throughout the scaffold. In this study, the scaffold synthesis process was modified to produce more homogeneous freezing by controlling of the rate of freezing during fabrication and obtaining more uniform contact between the pan containing the CG suspension and the freezing shelf through the use of smaller, less warped pans. The modified fabrication technique has allowed production of CG scaffolds with a more homogeneous structure characterized by less variation in mean pore size throughout the scaffold (mean: 95.9 microm, CV: 0.128) compared to the original scaffold (mean: 132.4 microm, CV: 0.185). The pores produced using the new technique appear to be more equiaxed, compared with those in scaffolds produced using the original technique.