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Fabrication of 2D protein microstructures and 3D polymer-protein hybrid microstructures by two-photon polymerization
Two-photon polymerization (TPP) offers the possibility of creating artificial cell scaffolds composed of micro- and nanostructures with spatial resolutions of less than 1 µm. For use in tissue engineering, the identification of a TPP-processable polymer that provides biocompatibility, biofunctionality and appropriate mechanical properties is a difficult task. ECM proteins such as collagen or fibronectin, which could mimic native tissues best, often lack the mechanical stability. Hence, by generating polymer-protein hybrid structures, the beneficial properties of proteins can be combined with the advantageous characteristics of polymers, such as sufficient mechanical stability. This study describes three steps toward facilitated application of TPP for biomaterial generation. (1) The efficiency of a low-cost ps-laser source is compared to a fs-laser source by testing several materials. A novel photoinitiator for polymerization with a ps-laser source is synthesized and proved toenable increased fabrication throughput. (2) The fabrication of 3D-microstructures with both systems and the fabrication of polymer-protein hybrid structures are demonstrated. (3) The tissue engineering capabilities of TPP are demonstrated by creating cross-linked gelatin microstructures, which clearly forced porcine chondrocytes to adapt their cell morphology.