Development and Fabrication of Novel Woven Meshes as Bone Graft Substitutes for Critical Sized Defects
With more than $2.5 billion spent per year, and over 2.2 million procedures conducted annually worldwide, bone grafting continues to be a large part of the treatment strategy for large non-healing bone defects (critical-sized defects). However, complication rates (>20%), donor shortage, and donor site morbidity have led to the promotion of bone tissue engineering as an important option in these cases. This work explored the use of a novel bio-loom to make woven polymeric meshes as viable bone tissue engineering scaffolds. Melt-spun poly-l-lactide and poly-l-lactide-co-ε-caprolactone fibers were used to produce mesh with varying porosity, pore size, and cellular affinity. Fluid flow properties and cellular behaviors were characterized in a series of in vitro tests. Mesh with variable properties were effectively created and the modulation of mesh specifications resulted in significant differences in cell metabolic activity and deoxyribonucleic acid concentrations. Changes in mesh parameters also significantly effected mesh permeability. Additionally, an interactive camp was designed to investigate ways to encourage underrepresented minority middle school students to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers was conducted. Results showed that parental encouragement, the external STEM environment, and extracurricular STEM exposure were closely related to a student's likelihood to express interest in a STEM career. Student interest in STEM careers significantly increased after participation in an interactive camp based on mesh-based modules. Further work explored the effect of early research experiences on the development of research identity for underrepresented minority science and engineering undergraduates. Results showed that students participating in this program significantly increased their research identity through increased self-recognition and competence in research activities.