Collaborating with UNM's Center for Biomedical Engineering and department of chemical engineering, Sandia researchers worked with polymers that are liquid at room temperature. Electrospinning these liquid polymers does not result in fiber formation, and the results are sort of like water pooling on a flat surface. To remedy the lack of fiber formation, they electrospun the material onto a heated plate, initiating a chemical reaction to crosslink the polymer fibers as they were formed, Dirk said.
Researchers were able to tune the conductivity of the final composite with the addition of multiwalled carbon nanotubes.
The team electrospun scaffolds with two types of material PBF, or poly(butylene fumarate), a polymer developed at UNM and Sandia for tissue engineering, and PDMS, or poly(dimethylsiloxane).
PBF is a biocompatible material that's biodegradable so the porous scaffold would disintegrate, leaving the contacts behind. PDMS is a biocompatible caulk-like material that is not biodegradable, meaning the scaffold would remain. Electrodes on one side of the materials made them conductive.
Sandia's work was funded through a late-start Laboratory Directed Research & Development (LDRD) project in 2010; afterward the researchers partnered with MD Anderson for implant tests. Sandia and MD Anderson are seeking funding to continue the project, Dirk said.
Buerger said they're using their proof-of-concept work to obtain third-party funding "so we can bring this technology closer to something that will help our wounded warriors, amputees and victims of peripheral nerve injury."
Sandia and UNM have applied for a patent on the scaffold technique. Sandia also filed two separate provisional patent applications, one in partnership with MD Anderson and the other with UNM, and the partners expect to submit full applications this year.
The MD Anderson collaboration came about because then-Sandia employee Dick Fate, an MD Anderso
|Contact: Sue Holmes|
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories