Musculoskeletal interfacial tissues consist of complex gradients in structure, cell phenotype, and biochemical signaling that are important for function. Designing tissue engineering strategies to mimic these types of gradients is an ongoing challenge. In particular, new fabrication techniques that enable precise spatial control over fiber alignment are needed to better mimic the structural gradients present in interfacial tissues, such as the tendon-bone interface. Here, we report a modular approach to spatially controlling fiber alignment using magnetically-assisted electrospinning. Electrospun fibers were highly aligned in the presence of a magnetic field and smoothly transitioned to randomly aligned fibers away from the magnetic field. Importantly, magnetically-assisted electrospinning allows for spatial control over fiber alignment at sub-millimeter resolution along the length of the fibrous scaffold similar to the native structural gradient present in many interfacial tissues. The versatility of this approach was further demonstrated using multiple electrospinning polymers and different magnet configurations to fabricate complex fiber alignment gradients. As expected, cells seeded onto gradient fibrous scaffolds were elongated and aligned on the aligned fibers and did not show a preferential alignment on the randomly aligned fibers. Overall, this fabrication approach represents an important step forward in creating gradient fibrous materials, where such materials are promising as tissue-engineered scaffolds for regenerating functional musculoskeletal interfacial tissues.
The updated version contains minor edits to improve clarity and additional data regarding the effect of the magnetic field on electrospun fiber diameter.