Controlled Deposition of Highly Oriented Type I Collagen Mimicking In Vivo Collagen Structures
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The structural arrangement of type I collagen in vivo is critical for the normal functioning of tissues, such as bone, cornea, and blood vessels. At present, there are no low-cost techniques for fabricating aligned collagen structures for applications in regenerative medicine. Here, we report a straightforward approach to fabricate collagen films, with defined orientation of collagen fibrillar aggregates within a matrix of oriented collagen molecules. Langmuir−Blodgett (LB) technology was used to deposit thin films of oriented type I collagen onto substrates. It was found that collagen does not behave like classical LB materials, such as amphiphilic hydrocarbon acids or lipids. The thickness of the deposited collagen films and the area-pressure isotherms were found to depend on the amount of material spread. In addition, no film collapse was detected and the deposited LB films were thicker than the theoretical dimension of a collagen monolayer (1.5 nm) formed by triple helical collagen molecules. Individual LB films with thicknesses of up to 20 nm were obtained, and multiple depositions yielded overall film thicknesses of up to 100 nm. Films consisted of a matrix of collagen molecules containing thicker fibrillar aggregates of collagen (micrometers in length). These fibrillar aggregates were built up of shorter unit molecules forming “spun thread” structures, some of which exhibited a zigzag pattern. In addition to aligning collagen unidirectionally (similar for example to tendon), we performed a two-step deposition procedure, in which the substrate was turned 90° between two consecutive collagen deposition steps. The resulting films showed orthogonally aligned collagen layers, mimicking the structure of cornea. Thus, this technique permits control of the thickness of individual layers, the orientation of successive layers, and the number of layers within the construct. Therefore, it may have widespread applicability for the engineering of collagen-rich tissues.