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João, Carlos, Ana Teresa Kullberg, Jorge Carvalho Silva, and João Paulo Borges. "Chitosan Inverted Colloidal Crystal scaffolds: Influence of molecular weight on structural stability." Materials Letters 193 (2017): 50-53. AbstractWebsite

Chitosan with three different molecular weights (538 ± 48, 229 ± 45 and 13 ± 3 kDa) was used to develop biodegradable Inverted Colloidal Crystal (ICC) scaffolds with uniform pore size and interconnected pore network. Mass loss and compression modulus were analyzed after hydrolytic degradation in order to understand the influence of molecular weight on structural and mechanical degradation of chitosan ICC structures. Results show that medium molecular weight chitosan (229 ± 45 kDa) retains ICC structure and compression modulus for an extended period (4 weeks) and is therefore the preferred one for the production of ICC for soft tissue engineering.

João, Carlos, Ana Catarina Baptista, Isabel Ferreira, Jorge Carvalho Silva, and João Paulo Borges. "Natural Nanofibres for Composite Applications." In Fibrous and Textile Materials for Composite Applications, edited by Sohel Rana and Raul Fangueiro, 261-299. Singapore: Springer Singapore, 2016. Abstract

Cellulose and chitin are the two most abundant natural polysaccharides. Both have a semicrystalline microfibrillar structure from which nanofibres can be extracted. These nanofibres are rod-like microcrystals that can be used as nanoscale reinforcements in composites due to their outstanding mechanical properties. This chapter starts by reviewing the sources, extraction methods and properties of cellulose and chitin nanofibres. Then, their use in the fabrication of structural and functional nanocomposites and the applications that have been investigated are reviewed. Nanocomposites are materials with internal nano-sized structures. They benefit from the properties of the nanofillers: low density, nonabrasive, nontoxic, low cost, susceptibility to chemical modifications and biodegradability. Diverse manufacturing technologies have been used to produce films, fibres, foams, sponges, aerogels, etc. Given their natural origin and high stiffness, these polymers have attracted a lot of attention not only in the biomedical and tissue engineering fields but also in areas such as pharmaceutics, cosmetics, agriculture, biosensors and water treatment.

João, Carlos, Coro Echeverria, Alexandre Velhinho, Jorge Carvalho Silva, Maria Helena Godinho, and João Paulo Borges. "Bio-inspired production of chitosan/chitin films from liquid crystalline suspensions." Carbohydrate polymers 155 (2017): 372-381. AbstractWebsite

Inspired by chitin based hierarchical structures observed in arthropods exoskeleton, this work reports the capturing of chitin nanowhiskers’ chiral nematic order into a chitosan matrix. For this purpose, highly crystalline chitin nanowhiskers (CTNW) with spindle-like morphology and average aspect ratio of 24.9 were produced by acid hydrolysis of chitin. CTNW were uniformly dispersed at different concentrations in aqueous suspensions. The suspensions liquid crystalline phase domain was determined by rheological measurements and polarized optical microscopy (POM). Chitosan (CS) was added to the CTNW isotropic, biphasic and anisotropic suspensions and the solvent was evaporated to allow films formation. The Films’ morphologies as well as the mechanical properties were explored. A correlation between experimental results and a theoretical model, for layered matrix’ structures with fibers acting as a reinforcement agent, was established. The results evidence the existence of two different layered structures, one formed by chitosan layers induced by the presence of chitin and another formed by chitin nanowhiskers layers. By playing on the ratio chitin/chitosan one layered structure or the other can be obtained allowing the tunning of materials’ mechanical properties.

João, Carlos, Jorge Carvalho Silva, and João Paulo Borges. "Chitin-Based Nanocomposites: Biomedical Applications." In Eco-friendly Polymer Nanocomposites, edited by Vijay Kumar Thakur and Manju Kumari Thakur, 439-457. Springer India, 2015. Abstract

Chitin, the second most abundant polymer in nature, is a renewable, nontoxic, biodegradable, and antibacterial polysaccharide. This semicrystalline biopolymer exhibits hierarchical structure from nano to micro-scale and is responsible for interesting living tissue properties. Recently, the scientific interest in chitin nanofibrils for applications in biomedical and tissue engineering fields has increased due to their particular capabilities such as matrix reinforcements, bioactivity and morphology similar to natural tissues. This chapter is focused on composite materials reinforced with chitin nanofibrils and their biomedical applications.

João, Carlos, Rute Almeida, Jorge Carvalho Silva, and João Paulo Borges. "A simple sol-gel route to the construction of hydroxyapatite inverted colloidal crystals for bone tissue engineering." Materials Letters 185 (2016): 407-410. AbstractWebsite

Hydroxyapatite (HAp) scaffolds with uniform pore size and interconnected pore network were constructed based on the inverted colloidal crystal (ICC) geometry and a simple sol-gel formulation. Monodisperse polystyrene microspheres were self-assembled and annealed into a hexagonal close packed structure. HAp sol-gel was infiltrated in this template followed by thermal treatment for simultaneous HAp matrix sintering and polymeric colloidal crystal calcination. The resultant ICC scaffolds exhibit an ordered architecture that was able to offer a favorable environment for human osteoblasts adhesion and proliferation, an essential feature for bone ingrowth in tissue engineering applications.

João, Carlos, Joana Vasconcelos, Jorge Carvalho Silva, and João Paulo Borges. "An Overview of Inverted Colloidal Crystal Systems for Tissue Engineering." Tissue Engineering Part B-Reviews 20 (2014): 437-454. AbstractWebsite

Scaffolding is at the heart of tissue engineering but the number of techniques available for turning biomaterials into scaffolds displaying the features required for a tissue engineering application is somewhat limited. Inverted colloidal crystals (ICCs) are inverse replicas of an ordered array of monodisperse colloidal particles, which organize themselves in packed long-range crystals. The literature on ICC systems has grown enormously in the past 20 years, driven by the need to find organized macroporous structures. Although replicating the structure of packed colloidal crystals (CCs) into solid structures has produced a wide range of advanced materials (e.g., photonic crystals, catalysts, and membranes) only in recent years have ICCs been evaluated as devices for medical/pharmaceutical and tissue engineering applications. The geometry, size, pore density, and interconnectivity are features of the scaffold that strongly affect the cell environment with consequences on cell adhesion, proliferation, and differentiation. ICC scaffolds are highly geometrically ordered structures with increased porosity and connectivity, which enhances oxygen and nutrient diffusion, providing optimum cellular development. In comparison to other types of scaffolds, ICCs have three major unique features: the isotropic three-dimensional environment, comprising highly uniform and size-controllable pores, and the presence of windows connecting adjacent pores. Thus far, this is the only technique that guarantees these features with a long-range order, between a few nanometers and thousands of micrometers. In this review, we present the current development status of ICC scaffolds for tissue engineering applications.