Synthetic Collagen Fiber Analogues

collagen_1Collagen comprises the major structural protein component of the extracellular matrix of higher organisms and collagen-based materials are prime candidates for tissue repair and replacement technologies. However, it remains a major challenge to emulate the unique structural and biological properties of native collagenous biomaterials in synthetic analogues. Collagens derived from animal sources are widely employed as biomedical materials although their practical utility is limited by the possible contamination of the material with pathogenic substances, such as viruses and prions, lack of sequence control, and potential immunogenicity in humans. Consequently, numerous opportunities exist for synthetic collagens in biomedical applications as extracellular matrix analogues, if the appropriate materials could be constructed that retain and expand upon the desirable properties of native collagen fibrils. The exploration of chemical and molecular genetic techniques to design and synthesize collagen-mimetic polypeptides and fibers that are competent for self-assembly into structurally defined protein fibrils is an intriguing avenue for exploration.

collagen_2We are not only involved in the synthesis of collagen biopolymer analogues but have active programs in the application of novel fabrication strategies for the design of a variety of engineered tissues, including heart valves and blood vessel substitutes. We have developed a wet spinning method for the scalable production of collagen microfiber, used to reinforce protein-based composite materials for small diameter vascular grafts and soft-tissue repair patches. In addition, we are applying variety of microfabrication techniques to generate collagen crimped-fiber composites that recapitulate native tissue architecture and biomechanics.

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