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A hybrid cell sheet engineering approach was developed using ultra-thin nanofiber arrays to host the formation of composite nanofiber/cell sheets. It was found that confluent aligned cell sheets could grow on uniaxially-aligned and crisscrossed nanofiber arrays with extremely low fiber densities. The porosity of the nanofiber sheets was sufficient to allow aligned linear myotube formation from differentiated myoblasts on both sides of the nanofiber sheets, in spite of single-side cell seeding. The nanofiber content of the composite cell sheets is minimized to reduce the hindrance to cell migration, cell-cell contacts, mass transport, as well as the foreign body response or inflammatory response associated with the biomaterial. Even at extremely low densities, the nanofiber component significantly enhanced the stability and mechanical properties of the composite cell sheets. In addition, the aligned nanofiber arrays imparted excellent handling properties to the composite cell sheets, which allowed easy processing into more complex, thick 3D structures of higher hierarchy. Aligned nanofiber array-based composite cell sheet engineering combines several advantages of material-free cell sheet engineering and polymer scaffold-based cell sheet engineering; and it represents a new direction in aligned cell sheet engineering for a multitude of tissue engineering applications.


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