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Overview of dense self-assembled collagen materials for tissue engineering and morphogenesis studies

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In biological tissues, a common feature is the presence of dense arrays of biopolymers with ordered geometries at the ultrastructural level. A relationship has been established between two scientific fields, namely cellular biology and physico-chemistry, by showing the similarity of such three-dimensional arrangements formed by the biological polymers and molecules in liquid crystals (see publications of Yves Bouligand). This structural analogy between living tissues and liquid crystals was suggesting similar self-assembly mechanisms in both systems. For Type I collagen (the major structural protein of connective tissue), the liquid crystalline self-assemblies was shown forming cholesteric phases in highly concentrated collagen solutions at the molecular level. After a sol/gel transition, collagen fibrils are formed while preserving the cholesteric geometry (see publications of Marie-Madeleine Giraud-Guille).

Recently, the samples were scaled up (from drop to bulk material). For this purpose, two different processes were set relying either on a coupled injection/dialysis or a spray-drying set-up. A range of simple and non-toxic materials is produced. The dense fibrillar collagen matrices at variable concentrations form a tissue-like library to assess the fundamental structure-function relationship of connective tissues such as dermis, cornea or bone. Indeed, coupling the liquid-crystalline properties of collagen to a hydroxyapatite mineralization process leads to the synthesis of a collagen/apatite composite with high similarities with the bone tissue in terms of composition and structure. In vitro and in vivo investigations were performed to control their cyto- and biocompatibility and to evaluate their potentialities as bone repair. They are found to be a good starting point for applications in bone tissue engineering through the design of new implantable materials since autologous bone is still considered as the gold standard.

This talk is part of the Materials Chemistry Research Interest Group series.

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