A team of scientists at Columbia University announced that they have developed a “green” electrospinning process. In the biomaterials industry, electrospinning is a universal fabrication method used around the world to produce nano- to microscale fibrous meshes that closely resemble native tissue architecture. The study explains how they have modernized the nanofiber fabrication of widely utilized biological and synthetic polymers (poly-α-hydroxyesters, collagen), polymer blends, and polymer-ceramic composites, while also highlighting the superiority of green manufacturing. These modifications are key to overcoming the challenges of the fabrication method such as the environmental risks, clinical translation and safety standards during both fabrication and application.
The “green” fibres demonstrated excellent mechanical properties and maintained growth factor bioactivity in comparison to traditional fibre, which is essential for its application and drug delivery.
The team wanted to express the challenges and importance of future green practices in the manufacturing of biomaterials for regenerative medicine. A rapidly growing industry, regenerative medicine is worth $156 billion worldwide.
“We think this is a paradigm shift in biofabrication, and will accelerate the translation of scalable biomaterials and biomimetic scaffolds for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine,” said Lu, a leader in research on tissue interfaces, “Green electrospinning not only preserves the composition, chemistry, architecture, and biocompatibility of traditionally electrospun fibres, but it also improves their mechanical properties by doubling the ductility of traditional fibres without compromising yield or ultimate tensile strength. Our work provides both a more biocompatible and sustainable solution for scalable nanomaterial fabrication.”
The team kept sustainability principles to biomaterial production, and developed a green electrospinning process by testing what the FDA considers as biologically benign solvents (Q3C Class 3). They recognized acetic acid as a green solvent with a low ecological impact that supports a stable electrospinning jet under routine fabrication conditions. By modifying electrospinning parameters, such as needle-plate distance and flow rate, the researchers were able to upgrade the fabrication of biomedical polymers, reducing the negative manufacturing impacts of the electrospinning process by three to six times.
The range of applications for “green” electrospun materials is wide. Lu’s team is working on optimizing these materials for orthopaedic and dental use, and expanding this eco-conscious fabrication process for larger production of regenerative materials.
“Biofabrication has been referred to as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ following steam engines, electrical power, and the digital age for automating mass production,” noted Mosher, the study’s first author. “This work is an important step towards developing sustainable practices in the next generation of biomaterials manufacturing, which has become paramount amidst the global climate crisis.”