Novel freeze-drying methods to produce a range of collagen-glycosaminoglycan scaffolds with tailored mean pore sizes.
The pore structure of three-dimensional scaffolds used in tissue engineering has been shown to significantly influence cellular activity. As the optimal pore size is dependant on the specifics of the tissue engineering application, the ability to alter the pore size over a wide range is essential for a particular scaffold to be suitable for multiple applications. With this in mind, the aim of this study was to develop methodologies to produce a range of collagen-glycosaminoglycan (CG) scaffolds with tailored mean pore sizes. The pore size of CG scaffolds is established during the freeze-drying fabrication process. In this study, freezing temperature was varied (−10 degrees C to −70 degrees C) and an annealing step was introduced to the process to determine their effects on pore size. Annealing is an additional step in the freeze-drying cycle that involves raising the temperature of the frozen suspension to increase the rate of ice crystal growth. The results show that the pore size of the scaffolds decreased as the freezing temperature was reduced. Additionally, the introduction of an annealing step during freeze-drying was found to result in a significant increase (40%) in pore size. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the methodologies developed in this study can be used to produce a range of CG scaffolds with mean pore sizes from 85 to 325 microm. This is a substantial improvement on the range of pore sizes that were possible to produce previously (96-150 microm). The methods developed in this study provide a basis for the investigation of the effects of pore size on both in vitro and in vivo performance and for the determination of the optimal pore structure for specific tissue engineering applications.