Self-assembled natural biomaterials offer a variety of ready-made nanostructures available for basic science research and technological applications. Most natural structural materials are made of self-assembled nanofibers with diameters in the nanometer range. Among these materials, chitin is the second most abundant polysaccharide after cellulose and is part of the exoskeleton or arthropods and mollusk shells. Chitin has several desirable properties as a biomaterial including mechanical strength, chemical and thermal stability, and biocompatibility. However, chitin insolubility in most organic solvents has somewhat limited its use. In this research highlight, we describe recent developments in producing biogenic chitin nanofibers using self-assembly from a solution of squid pen β-chitin in hexafluoroisopropanol. With this solution based assembly, we have demonstrated chitin-silk composite self-assembly, chitin nanofiber fabrication across length-scales, and manufacturing of chitin nanofiber substrates for tissue engineering.
Keywords: Chitin; Chitin nanofiber ink; Chitosan; Nanofiber; Self-assembly.
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