The advancement of tissue engineering is contingent upon the development and implementation of advanced biomaterials. Conductive polymers have demonstrated potential for use as a medium for electrical stimulation, which has shown to be beneficial in many regenerative medicine strategies including neural and cardiac tissue engineering. Melanins are naturally occurring pigments that have previously been shown to exhibit unique electrical properties. This study evaluates the potential use of melanin films as a semiconducting material for tissue engineering applications. Melanin thin films were produced by solution processing and the physical properties were characterized. Films were molecularly smooth with a roughness (Rms) of 0.341 nm and a conductivity of 7.00 ± 1.10 × 10-5 S cm-1 in the hydrated state. In vitro biocompatibility was evaluated by Schwann cell attachment and growth as well as neurite extension in PC12 cells. In vivo histology was evaluated by examining the biomaterial-tissue response of melanin implants placed in close proximity to peripheral nerve tissue. Melanin thin films enhanced Schwann cell growth and neurite extension compared to collagen films in vitro. Melanin films induced an inflammation response that was comparable to silicone implants in vivo. Furthermore, melanin implants were significantly resorbed after 8 weeks. These results suggest that solution-processed melanin thin films have the potential for use as a biodegradable semiconducting biomaterial for use in tissue engineering applications.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Bettinger, C., Bruggeman, J., Misra, A., Borenstein, J., & Langer, R. (2009). Biocompatibility of biodegradable semiconducting melanin films for nerve tissue engineering. Biomaterials, 30(17), 3050–3057. doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2009.02.018