Conducting Polymers as Smart Materials for Tissue Engineering
Conducting polymers (CPs) are a promising class of multifunctional smart materials uniquely combining conventional polymeric properties with electronic and ionic conductivities. This chapter presents an overview on the application of CPs as multifunctional biomaterials in tissue engineering (TE). The main attraction of CPs in the role of TE lies in their ability to subject cells to an electric field. Coupled with their other properties including biocompatibility, bio-functionalization, electroactuation, and micro/nanofabrication processability, CPs can serve as a multifunctional component in TE scaffolds to help mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM) by synergistically presenting directed electric fields, immobilized ECM proteins, timed released bioactive factors, and topographical guidance cues for optimal cell/tissue growth. This chapter is thus structured to highlight these critical CP properties and their corresponding roles in TE applications. While most research efforts thus far have focused on developing new CP derivatives and testing their efficacy in interfacing with cells and tissues for potential TE applications, a handful of proof-of-concept applications have been demonstrated, among which the design of electroactive neural conduits for peripheral nerve regeneration dominates. Despite many persisting materials challenges, breakthroughs are likely to take place in the near future to enable promising opportunities for translational applications.