Flexible, microstructured surfaces using chitin-derived biopolymers†
Chitin, one of the most abundant natural amino polysaccharides, is obtained primarily from the exoskeletons of crustaceans, crabs and shrimp. Chitin and its derivative chitosan have gained much attention in the field of biomedical research due to attractive properties such as biocompatibility, non-toxicity, biodegradability, low immunogenicity, and ease of availability. While work has been done on the use of chitin and chitosan as functional biomaterials by imparting specific properties, the potential of chitin as a biomaterial is somewhat limited owing to its intractable processing. In this work, we propose a facile reaction to modify the chitin chain with photoactive moieties for the realization of photocrosslinkable chitin. This chitin derivative is easily usable with a benign solvent formic acid to be able to form mechanically robust, optically transparent sheets. These films exhibit comparable tensile properties to that of native chitin and chitosan and better surface wettability. Most importantly, this material can be used to form precise, high resolution microarchitectures on both rigid and flexible substrates using a facile bench top photolithography technique. These flexible micropatterned 2D sheets of chitin were demonstrated as a dynamic cell culture substrate for the adhesion and proliferation of fibroblasts, wherein the chitin micropatterns act as a template for spatial guidance of cells. This chitin-based biopolymer can find diverse uses in tissue engineering as well as to form components for degradable bioelectronics.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Recent Open Access Articles