Current reconstructive approaches to large craniofacial skeletal defects are often complicated and challenging. Critical-sized defects are unable to heal via natural regenerative processes and require surgical intervention, traditionally involving autologous bone (mainly in the form of nonvascularized grafts) or alloplasts. Autologous bone grafts remain the gold standard of care in spite of the associated risk of donor site morbidity. Tissue engineering approaches represent a promising alternative that would serve to facilitate bone regeneration even in large craniofacial skeletal defects. This strategy has been tested in a myriad of iterations by utilizing a variety of osteoconductive scaffold materials, osteoblastic stem cells, as well as osteoinductive growth factors and small molecules. One of the major challenges facing tissue engineers is creating a scaffold fulfilling the properties necessary for controlled bone regeneration. These properties include osteoconduction, osetoinduction, biocompatibility, biodegradability, vascularization, and progenitor cell retention.
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