Characterisation of electrospun polystyrene scaffolds for three-dimensional in vitro biological studies

Simon C. Baker, Neil Atkin, Paul A. Gunning, Nick Granville, Karen Wilson, Darren Wilson, Jennifer Southgate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to produce a well-characterised electrospun polystyrene scaffold which could be used routinely for three-dimensional (3D) cell culture experimentation. A linear relationship (p<0.01p<0.01) between three principal process variables (applied voltage, working distance and polymer concentration) and fibre diameter was reliably established enabling a mathematical model to be developed to standardise the electrospinning process. Surface chemistry and bulk architecture were manipulated to increase wetting and handling characteristics, respectively. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) confirmed the presence of oxygen-containing groups after argon plasma treatment, resulting in a similar surface chemistry to treated tissue culture plastic. The bulk architecture of the scaffolds was characterised by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to assess the alignment of both random and aligned electrospun fibres, which were calculated to be 0.15 and 0.66, respectively. This compared to 0.51 for collagen fibres associated with native tissue. Tensile strength and strain of approximately of 0.15 MPa and 2.5%, respectively, allowed the scaffolds to be routinely handled for tissue culture purposes. The efficiency of attachment of smooth muscle cells to electrospun scaffolds was assessed using a modified 3-[4,5-dimethyl(thiazol-2yl)-3,5-diphery] tetrazolium bromide assay and cell morphology was assessed by phalloidin-FITC staining of F-actin. Argon plasma treatment of electrospun polystyrene scaffold resulted in significantly increased cell attachment (p<0.05p<0.05). The alignment factors of the actin filaments were 0.19 and 0.74 for the random and aligned scaffold respectively, compared to 0.51 for the native tissue. The data suggests that electrospinning of polystyrene generates 3D scaffolds which complement polystyrene used in 2D cell culture systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3136-3146
Number of pages11
Issue number16
Early online date10 Feb 2006
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


  • non-woven fabric
  • biomaterial
  • scaffold
  • SEM
  • smooth muscle cell
  • tissue culture


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