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Electrically Conductive Chitosan/Carbon Scaffolds For Cardiac Tissue Engineering

A. Martins, G. Eng, S. Caridade, J. F. Mano, R. Reis, G. Vunjak-Novakovic
Published 2014 · Chemistry, Medicine

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In this work, carbon nanofibers were used as doping material to develop a highly conductive chitosan-based composite. Scaffolds based on chitosan only and chitosan/carbon composites were prepared by precipitation. Carbon nanofibers were homogeneously dispersed throughout the chitosan matrix, and the composite scaffold was highly porous with fully interconnected pores. Chitosan/carbon scaffolds had an elastic modulus of 28.1 ± 3.3 KPa, similar to that measured for rat myocardium, and excellent electrical properties, with a conductivity of 0.25 ± 0.09 S/m. The scaffolds were seeded with neonatal rat heart cells and cultured for up to 14 days, without electrical stimulation. After 14 days of culture, the scaffold pores throughout the construct volume were filled with cells. The metabolic activity of cells in chitosan/carbon constructs was significantly higher as compared to cells in chitosan scaffolds. The incorporation of carbon nanofibers also led to increased expression of cardiac-specific genes involved in muscle contraction and electrical coupling. This study demonstrates that the incorporation of carbon nanofibers into porous chitosan scaffolds improved the properties of cardiac tissue constructs, presumably through enhanced transmission of electrical signals between the cells.
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