Porous collagen/chitosan scaffolds with different Collagen:Chitosan (Coll:Ch) ratios were prepared by freeze-drying followed by self-crosslinking via dehydrothermal treatment (DHT) and characterized as biomaterials for tissue engineering. Cy7 and Cy5.5 fluorochromes were covalently grafted to collagen and chitosan, respectively. Thus, it was possible, using optical fluorescence imaging of the two fluorochromes, to simultaneously track their in vivo biodegradation, in a blend scaffold form. The fluorescence signal evolution, due to the bioresorption, corroborated with histological analysis. In vitro cytocompatibility of Coll:Ch blend scaffolds were evaluated with standardized tests. In addition, the scaffolds showed a highly interconnected porous structure. Extent of crosslinking was analyzed by convergent analysis using thermogravimetry, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and PBS uptake. The variations observed with these techniques indicate strong interactions between collagen and chitosan (covalent and hydrogen bonds) promoted by the DHT. The mechanical properties were characterized to elucidate the impact of the different processing steps in the sample preparation (DHT, neutralization and sterilization by β-irradiation) and showed a robust processing scheme with low impact of Coll:Ch composition ratio.
Keywords: Bi-fluorescence imaging; Collagen:chitosan scaffolds; Dehydrothermal treatment.
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