In this study, we created a new method of electrospinning capable of controlling the surface structure of individual fibers (fiber nanotopography). The nanotopographical features were created by a phase separation in the fibers as they formed. To control the phase separation, a nonsolvent (a chemical insoluble with the polymer) was added to an electrospinning solution containing poly-l-lactic acid (PLLA) and chloroform. The nanotopography of electrospun fibers in the PLLA/chloroform solution was smooth. However, adding a small weight (<2% of total solution) of a single nonsolvent (water, ethanol, or dimethyl sulfoxide) generated nanoscale depressions on the surface of the fibers unique to the nonsolvent added. Additionally, nanoscale depressions on electrospun fibers were observed to change with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) concentration in the PLLA/chloroform solution. A nonlinear relationship was found between the concentration of DMSO and the number and size of nanotopographical features. The surface depressions did not alter the hydrophobicity of the scaffold or degradation of the scaffold over a two-day period. To determine if fiber nanotopography altered cell behavior, macrophages (RAW 264.7 cells) were cultured on fibers with a smooth nanotopography or fibers with nanoscale depressions. RAW 264.7 cells spread less on fibers with nanoscale depressions than fibers with a smooth topography (p < 0.05), but there were no differences between groups with regard to cell metabolism or the number of adherent cells. The results of this study demonstrate the necessity to consider the nanotopography of individual fibers as these features may affect cellular behavior. More importantly, we demonstrate a versatile method of controlling electrospun fiber nanotopography.
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces5, 10173–10184 (2013).