"Bone is the most transplanted tissue with 1.3 million procedures every year in Europe. With an increasing demographic ageing across Europe, bone transplant represents a significant socio-economic burden that necessitates new bone regeneration strategies in line with one of the Horizon 2020 priority: ""Smart Growth: knowledge and innovation based economy"". The field of bone tissue engineering has flourished over the last decades, owing to a solid knowledge on bone biology and increased progress on materials engineering. A few weeks ago, Dr Gustau Catalan at ICN2 brought to light the groundbreaking discovery that bone is flexoelectric. In order to biomimic the flexoelectric character of bone, we aim in this project to produce new synthetic bone scaffolds that exhibit flexoelectricity. Engineering scaffolds with a flexoelectric character calls for particular design requirements. Flexoelectricity is the coupling between strain gradients and polarization, whereby any dielectric can polarize in response to an inhomogeneous deformation. In order to generate the required strain gradients within the scaffold to produce a flexoelectric effect, scaffolds will be manufactured with controlled porosity gradients by 3D printing based approaches. Three polymers used in bone tissue engineering, namely PLLA, PLGA and PCL will be investigated to produce the flexoelectric scaffolds. It is envisaged that a flexoelectric-induced polarization can be attained in any of them. In view of improving the osteoconductive, osteogenic and mechanical properties of the flexoelectric scaffolds, they will further incorporate different amounts of nanohydroxyapatite (from 0 to 50 wt %). Finite element calculations will be used to refine porosity geometries (porosity gradient and pore shape). It is expected that through careful geometrical design of porosity, scaffolds could exhibit a bone-like flexoelectric effect that would not only support the bone tissue regeneration process but also stimulate it."
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