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Hydrogels are water-swollen insoluble polymeric networks structurally similar to the extracellular matrix of many tissues.
We previously reported that hydrogels tailored using particular physiological fibrils of Self-Assembling Peptides (SAPs)-
(example EAK, RGD-EAK, EAbuK) specifically support adhesion and proliferation of osteoblast cells. However, since SAPs
hydrogels are characterized by relatively modest moduli (up to 10 kPa), they are hardly applicable as scaffolds for the treatment
of bony defects. In the effort to optimize the extracellular matrix mimetic biocompatibility and stiffness, in this study different
SAPs at increasing concentrations were electrospun with poly-?-caprolactone (PCL). By electron microscopy, FT-IR, XPS and
contact angle measurements we found that the percentages of peptides embedded in the scaffolds directly correlates with the
diameters of the electrospun fibers and the hydrophilicity of the matrix surfaces. Moreover the enrichment of PCL with SAPs at
different concentrations resulted in different trends in tensile modulus, stress and strain. Biological assays reported that matrices
characterized by increased hydrophilicity and proper fiber diameter promoted human osteoblast cells adhesion supported calcium
deposition and increased osteoblast-related genes expression. Thus, 10% RGD-EAK motif induced expression of integrin-binding
sialoprotein, osteonectin and runt-related transcription factor 2 mRNA specific transcript levels as determined by quantitative
RT-PCR. In conclusion, increasing concentrations of SAPs modulated the physical properties of PCL scaffolds and in particular
rectified the softness of SAPs hydrogels.
Paola Brun is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Molecular Medicine, University of Padova. She obtained her PhD in 2005. Her scientific research activity
covers a range of multidisciplinary topics mainly focused on cell biology, bioengineering and molecular medicine. She actively collaborates with the Departments of
Industrial Engineering and Physics to find out innovative materials and techniques able to promote proliferation and differentiation of different cell populations. She
has published 55 papers in peer-reviewed journals and she is an Editorial Board Member of seven scientific journals.
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