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  1. Abstract

    The postdrawing process is poorly understood for polymer nanofibers due to the difficulty of manipulating nanofiber structures. Here, an angled track system facilitates postdrawing of individual nanofibers with control of parameters including molecular weight, draw rate, draw ratio, and solvent evaporation time. In this study, the effects of molecular weight, draw rate, and relative residual solvent content on final nanofiber properties are investigated. Molecular weight is first investigated to clarify any influence polymer chain length can have on drawing in facilitating or hindering chain extensibility. Polyacrylonitrile nanofibers with 50 and 150 kDa molecular weights behave similarly with postdrawing resulting in reduced diameters and enhanced mechanics. Since solvent quantity during drawing is a time sensitive component it is meaningful to assess the impact of draw rate on the chemical and structural makeup of postdrawn fibers. Chemical bond vibrations and chain orientation are sensitive to draw rate when polycaprolactone nanofibers are dried for 3 minutes prior to postdrawing, but this dependency to draw rate is not observed when fibers are postdrawn immediately upon collection. These findings demonstrate that the amount of retained solvent at collection is relevant to this postprocessing approach, and highlights the dynamics of solvent evaporation during postdrawing.

     
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  2. Abstract

    A parallel automated track collector is integrated with a rationally designed centrifugal spinning head to collect aligned polyacrylonitrile (PAN) nanofibers. Centrifugal spinning is an extremely promising nanofiber fabrication technology due to high production rates. However, continuous oriented fiber collection and processing presents challenges. Engineering solutions to these two challenges are explored in this study. A 3D‐printed head design, optimized through a computational fluid dynamics simulation approach, is utilized to limit unwanted air currents that disturb deposited nanofibers. An automated track collecting device has pulled deposited nanofibers away from the collecting area. This results in a continuous supply of individual aligned nanofibers as opposed to the densely packed nanofiber mesh ring that is deposited on conventional static post collectors. The automated track collector allows for simple integration of the postdraw processing step that is critical to polymer fiber manufacturing for enhancing macromolecular orientation and mechanical properties. Postdrawing has enhanced the mechanical properties of centrifugal spun PAN nanofibers, which have different crystalline properties compared with conventional PAN microfiber. These technological developments address key limitations of centrifugal spinning that can facilitate high production rate commercial fabrication of highly aligned, high‐performance polymer nanofibers.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Collagen is the major structural protein in myocardium and contributes to tissue strength and integrity, cellular orientation, and cell–cell and cell‐matrix interactions. Significant post‐myocardial infarction related loss of cardiomyocytes and cardiac tissue, and their subsequent replacement with fibrous scar tissue, negatively impacts endogenous tissue repair and regeneration capabilities. To overcome such limitations, tissue engineers are working toward developing a 3D cardiac patch which not only mimics the structural, functional, and biological hierarchy of the native cardiac tissue, but also could deliver autologous stem cells and encourage their homing and differentiation. In this study, we examined the utility of electrospun, randomly‐oriented, type‐I collagen nanofiber (dia= 789 ± 162 nm) mats on the cardiomyogenic differentiation of human bone marrow‐derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM‐MSC) spheroids, in the presence or absence of 10 μM 5‐azacytidine (aza). Results showed that these scaffolds are biocompatible and enable time‐dependent evolution of early (GATA binding protein 4: GATA4), late (cardiac troponin I: cTnI), and mature (myosin heavy chain: MHC) cardiomyogenic markers, with a simultaneous reduction in CD90 (stemness) expression, independent of aza‐treatment. Aza‐exposure improved connexin‐4 expression and sustained sarcomeric α‐actin expression, but provided only transient improvement in cardiac troponin T (cTnT) expression. Cell orientation and alignment significantly improved in these nanofiber scaffolds over time and with aza‐exposure. Although further quantitativein vitroandin vivostudies are needed to establish the clinical applicability of such stem‐cell laden collagen nanofiber mats as cardiac patches for cardiac tissue regeneration, our results underscore the benefits of 3D milieu provided by electrospun collagen nanofiber mats, aza, and spheroids on the survival, cardiac differentiation and maturation of human BM‐MSCs. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 106A: 3303–3312, 2018.

     
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  4. Post-drawn PCL nanofibers can be molecularly tuned to have a variety of mechanical properties and drug release profiles depending on the temperature and time of annealing, which has implications for regenerative medicine and drug delivery applications. Post-drawing polycaprolactone (PCL) nanofibers has previously been demonstrated to drastically increase their mechanical properties. Here the effects of annealing on post-drawn PCL nanofibers are characterized. It is shown that room temperature storage and in vivo temperatures increase crystallinity significantly on the order of weeks, and that high temperature annealing near melt significantly increases crystallinity and molecular orientation on the order of minutes. The kinetics of crystallization were assessed using an anneal and quench approach. High temperature annealing also increased the ultimate tensile strength and toughness of the fibers and changed the release profile of a model drug absorbed in PCL nanofibers from first-order to zero-order kinetics. 
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