Implants for the regeneration of vascular network and soft organs

Collagen based complex polymeric matrixes are prepared to be used for soft tissue regeneration such as heart, tendons/ligaments, meniscus and endocrine organs (thymus, thyroid gland). Biologically inspired processes of pH induced self-assembling and self-organization are applied to various polymeric blends of natural and/or bio-erodible polymers (collagen, cellulose, alginate, chitosan, PLLA, PCL, PGA PEG) to obtain 2-D and 3-D construct with high affinity with soft tissues. Collagen based membranes are prepared by tape-casting and engineered as patch for infracted myocardium. The membrane elasticity are modulated by addition of several molecules such as elastine and/or cross-linking agents so that to create the best environment for cardio-miocytes contraction.
Spin-casting techniques have been applied to collagen based functionalized gels to create scaffolds for AC-ligaments able to resist to repeated elongation cycles and avoiding yield.
Innovative biocompatible scaffolds mimicking the natural 3D architecture at macro-micro-nanoscale and functionality of the "stroma" (i.e. connective-vascular-extracellular matrix interstitium) of the endocrine organs are developed. The main concept is based on the idea that 3D stroma-like matrices may epigenetically guide growth and differentiation of seeded cells that, receiving both positional and functional cues are able to regenerate an entire functionally-competent organ. In this view complex polymeric matrixes are prepared by inverse casting techniques to develop organomorphic implants engineered to regenerate the vascular tree and stromal structure of endocrine and lympho-hematopoietic organs.
Gland transplantation has great clinical potential, but the shortage of transplant donors limits the progress of this therapy. Development of a bioengineered 3D stroma-like matrices, where the cellular component is autologous, will overcome two major obstacles in transplantation: the lack of organs and the toxicity arising from lifelong immunosuppression.