• Vol. 30 No. 2, 183–191
  • 15 March 2001

An Introduction to Biodegradable Materials for Tissue Engineering Applications



Tissue generation by autogenous cell transplantation is one of the most promising treatment concepts being developed as it eliminates problems of donor site scarcity, immune rejection and pathogen transfer. Cultured cells are seeded onto a three-dimensional biocompatible scaffold that will slowly degrade and resorb as the soft and hard structures grow and assimilate in vitro and/or in vivo. The 3-D scaffold provides the necessary template for cells to proliferate and maintain their differentiated state. Ultimately, it defines the overall shape of the tissue-engineered transplant. The aim of this review is to describe and discuss the scaffold materials of natural and synthetic origin that are of specific interest to tissue engineers. This review is based on previous publications and our own experience in the use of biomaterials of natural and synthetic origin for tissue engineering applications. Biodegradable polymers which have been used for tissue engineering applications are mainly based on clinically established medical devices and implants. In the group of macromolecules of natural origin collagen, alginate, agarose, hyaluronic acid derivatives, chitosan, and fibrin glue have been used as scaffolds. Man-made polymers such as polyglycolide (PGA), polylactides (PLLA, PDLA), poly(caprolactone) (PCL), and poly(dioxanone) (PDS) have been studied as matrix material to guide the differentiation and proliferation of cells into the targeted functional premature and/or mature tissue. Appropriate selection of scaffold material with respect to the targeted tissue is essential. Today, biomaterials of choice remain to be those approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. In spite of that, novel biomaterials should be developed specifically designed for tissue engineering applications.

The concept of tissue engineering arises from the need to develop an alternative method of treating patients suffering from tissue loss or organ failure. Current therapies in use today are not only expensive but often do not adequately fulfil their intended purpose.

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