Mimicking growth factors: role of small molecule scaffold additives in promoting tissue regeneration and repair
The primary aim of tissue engineering scaffolds is to mimic the in vivo environment and promote tissue growth. In this quest, a number of strategies have been developed such as enhancing cell–material interactions through modulation of scaffold physico–chemical parameters. However, more is required for scaffolds to relate to the cell natural environment. Growth factors (GFs) secreted by cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) are involved in both normal repair and abnormal remodeling. The direct use of GFs on their own or when incorporated within scaffolds represent a number of challenges such as release rate, stability and shelf-life. Small molecules have been proposed as promising alternatives to GFs as they are able to minimize or overcome many shortcomings of GFs, in particular immune response and instability. Despite the promise of small molecules in various TE applications, their direct use is limited by nonspecific adverse effects on non-target tissues and organs. Hence, they have been incorporated within scaffolds to localize their actions and control their release to target sites. However, scanty rationale is available which links the chemical structure of these molecules with their mode of action. We herewith review various small molecules either when used on their own or when incorporated within polymeric carriers/scaffolds for bone, cartilage, neural, adipose and skin tissue regeneration.