A novel biodegradable nano/micro hybrid structure was obtained by electrospinning P3HB or PCL nanofibers onto a twisted silk fibroin (SF) structure, with the aim of fabricating a suitable scaffold for tendon and ligament tissue engineering. The electrospinning (ES) processing parameters for P3HB and PCL were optimized on 2D samples, and applied to produce two different nano/micro hybrid constructs (SF/ES-PCL and SF/ES-P3HB).
Morphological, chemico-physical and mechanical properties of the novel hybrid scaffolds were evaluated by SEM, ATR FT-IR, DSC, tensile and thermodynamic mechanical tests. The results demonstrated that the nanofibers were tightly wrapped around the silk filaments, and the crystallinity of the SF twisted yarns was not influenced by the presence of the electrospun polymers. The slightly higher mechanical properties of the novel hybrid constructs confirmed an increase of internal forces due to the interaction between nano and micro components. Cell culture tests with L929 fibroblasts, in the presence of the sample eluates or in direct contact with the hybrid structures, showed no cytotoxic effects and a good level of cytocompatibility of the nano/micro hybrid structures in term of cell viability, particularly at day 1. Cell viability onto the nano/micro hybrid structures decreased from the first to the third day of culture when compared with the control culture plastic, but appeared to be higher when compared with the uncoated SF yarns. Although additional in vitro and in vivo tests are needed, the original fabrication method here described appears promising for scaffolds suitable for tendon and ligament tissue engineering.