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Electrospun polymeric fibers have been investigated as scaffolding materials for bone tissue engineering. However, their mechanical properties, and in particular stiffness and ultimate tensile strength, cannot match those of natural bones. The objective of the study was to develop novel composite nanofiber scaffolds by attaching minerals to polymeric fibers using an adhesive material-the mussel-inspired protein polydopamine-as a "superglue". Herein, we report for the first time the use of dopamine to regulate mineralization of electrospun poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) fibers to enhance their mechanical properties. We examined the mineralization of the PCL fibers by adjusting the concentration of HCO3 - and dopamine in the mineralized solution, the reaction time and the surface composition of the fibers. We also examined mineralization on the surface of polydopamine-coated PCL fibers. We demonstrated the control of morphology, grain size and thickness of minerals deposited on the surface of electrospun fibers. The obtained mineral coatings render electrospun fibers with much higher stiffness, ultimate tensile strength and toughness, which could be closer to the mechanical properties of natural bone. Such great enhancement of mechanical properties for electrospun fibers through mussel protein-mediated mineralization has not been seen previously. This study could also be extended to the fabrication of other composite materials to better bridge the interfaces between organic and inorganic phases.


This is the authors’ final manuscript submission. The version of record is available from the publisher at Copyright © 2012 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.