Tissue-engineered dermis is thought to be the best treatment for skin defects; however, slow vascularization of these biomaterial scaffolds limits their clinical application. Exogenous administration of angiogenic growth factors is highly desirable for tissue regeneration. In this study, biodegradable gelatin microspheres (GMs) containing basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) were fabricated and incorporated into a porous collagen/cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) scaffold, as a platform for long-term release and consequent angiogenic boosting. The physicochemical properties of these scaffolds were examined and the in vitro release pattern of bFGF from scaffolds was measured by ELISA. Collagen/CNCs scaffolds with and without bFGF-GMs were incubated with human umbilical vein endothelial cells for 1 week, results showed that the scaffolds with bFGF-GMs significantly augmented cell proliferation. Then, four different groups of scaffolds were implanted subcutaneously into Sprague-Dawley rats to study angiogenesis in vivo via macroscopic observation, and hematoxylin and eosin and immunohistochemical staining. The results suggested that the collagen/CNCs/bFGF-GMs scaffolds had a significantly higher number of newly formed and mature blood vessels, and the fastest degradation rate. This study demonstrated that collagen/CNCs/bFGF-GMs scaffolds have great potential in skin tissue engineering.
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