The overall goal of our work is to develop new methods and materials for the fabrication of hierarchically structured, three-dimensional (3D) tissue scaffolds. Conventional scaffolds commonly lack substantial mechanical strength, and there is difficulty in controlling porosity, pore distribution, and pore interconnectivity. Additionally, the chemical nature of these scaffolds is typically homogenous. The ability to chemically modify selected areas on a scaffold is one method to direct cell growth in deliberate patterns; which could aid in the engineering of complex, functioning tissues. The general aim of this work is to address these issues through the application of stereolithography (SL) to the fabrication of hierarchically structured scaffolds.
In order to achieve this goal, photopolymerizable materials must be developed that are both compatible with cell growth and with SL processing. SL methods are designed to produce arbitrary control over the physical structure of the part. In addition to physical structure control, control over the local surface chemistry of the scaffold is also desired. This would permit the use of both physical and chemical cues to control cell behavior in a tissue engineering construct. Chemical control could be achieved in SL methods by using photopolymerizable materials that can also be selectively chemically modified during the SL part building process. This paper provides an update on our work directed at using combined photoradical initiated polymerization and photoacid generator based chemical modification of a polymeric scaffold via multi-wavelength SL to produce hierarchically structured scaffolds.