The primary goal of the biomaterials scientist and tissue engineer is to create a biocompatible implant which mimics the mechanical and morphological properties of the tissue being replaced. In vitro experimentation has documented the propensity of soluble type I collagen to self-assemble and form microscopic collagen fibrils with periodic banding analogous to native collagen fiber. Our laboratory has further investigated in vitro self-assembly by incorporating several of the “natural” processes into a multi-step fiber formation procedure which generates macroscopic collagen fiber from its molecular constituents. Results of uniaxial tensile tests and ultrastructural analyses indicate that these coextruded and stretched collagen fibers have mechanical properties and fibrillar substructure comparable to that observed in native collagen fiber.
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