Electrospinning is a simple and efficient process in producing nanofibers. To fabricate nanofibers made of a blend of two constituent materials, co-axial electrospinning method is an option. In this method, the constituent materials contained in separate barrels are simultaneously injected using two syringe nozzles arranged co-axially and the materials mix during the spraying process forming core and shell of the nanofibers. In this study, co-axial electrospinning method is used to fabricate nanofibers made of polyvinyl alcohol and maghemite (γ-Fe2O3). The concentration of polyvinyl alcohol and amount of maghemite nanoparticle loading were varied, at 5 and 10 w/v% and at 1-10 v/v%, respectively. The mechanical properties (strength and Young's modulus), porosity, and biocompatibility properties (contact angle and cell viability) of the electrospun mats were evaluated, with the same mats fabricated by regular single-nozzle electrospinning method as the control. The co-axial electrospinning method is able to fabricate the expected polyvinyl alcohol/maghemite nanofiber mats. It was noticed that the polyvinyl alcohol/maghemite electrospun mats have lower mechanical properties (i.e. strength and stiffness) and porosity, more hydrophilicity (i.e. lower contact angle), and similar cell viability compared to the mats fabricated by single-nozzle electrospinning method.
Maghemite (γ-Fe2O3) nanoparticle with its unique magnetic properties is recently known to enhance the cell growth rate. In this study, γ-Fe2O3 is mixed into polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) matrix and then electrospun to form nanofibers. Design of experiments was used to determine the optimum parameter settings for the electrospinning process so as to produce elctrospun mats with the preferred characteristics such as good morphology, Young's modulus and porosity. The input factors of the electrospinnning process were nanoparticles content (1-5%), voltage (25-35 kV), and flow rate (1-3 ml/h) while the responses considered were Young's modulus and porosity. Empirical models for both responses as a function of the input factors were developed and the optimum input factors setting were determined, and found to be at 5% nanoparticle content, 35 kV voltage, and 1 ml/h volume flow rate. The characteristics and performance of the optimum PVA/γ-Fe2O3 nanofiber mats were compared with those of neat PVA nanofiber mats in terms of morphology, thermal properties, and hydrophilicity. The PVA/γ-Fe2O3 nanofiber mats exhibited higher fiber diameter and surface roughness yet similar thermal properties and hydrophilicity compared to neat PVA PVA/γ-Fe2O3 nanofiber mats. Biocompatibility test by exposing the nanofiber mats with human blood cells was performed. In terms of clotting time, the PVA/γ-Fe2O3 nanofibers exhibited similar behavior with neat PVA. The PVA/γ-Fe2O3 nanofibers also showed higher cells proliferation rate when MTT (3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) assay was done using human skin fibroblast cells. Thus, the PVA/γ-Fe2O3 electrospun nanofibers can be a promising biomaterial for tissue engineering scaffolds.
The use of electrospinning process in fabricating tissue engineering scaffolds has received great attention in recent years due to its simplicity. The nanofibers produced via electrospinning possessed morphological characteristics similar to extracellular matrix of most tissue components. Porosity plays a vital role in developing tissue engineering scaffolds because it influences the biocompatibility performance of the scaffolds. In this study, maghemite (γ-Fe2O3) was mixed with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and subsequently electrospun to produce nanofibers. Five factors; nanoparticles content, voltage, flow rate, spinning distance, and rotating speed were varied to produce the electrospun nanofibrous mats with high porosity value. Empirical model was developed using response surface methodology to analyze the effect of these factors to the porosity. The results revealed that the optimum porosity (90.85%) was obtained using 5% w/v nanoparticle content, 35kV of voltage, 1.1ml/h volume flow rate of solution, 8cm spinning distance and 2455rpm of rotating speed. The empirical model was verified successfully by performing confirmation experiments. The properties of optimum PVA/γ-Fe2O3 nanofiber mats such as fiber diameter, mechanical properties, and contact angle were investigated. In addition, cytocompatibility test, in vitro degradation rate, and MTT assay were also performed. Results revealed that high porosity biodegradable γ-Fe2O3/polyvinyl alcohol nanofiber mats have low mechanical properties but good degradation rates and cytocompatibility properties. Thus, they are suitable for low load bearing biomedical application or soft tissue engineering scaffold.