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Title: The development of a soft tissue mimicking hydrogel : mechanical characterisation and 3D printing
Author: Tan, Zhengchu
ISNI:       0000 0005 0287 2213
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2019
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Accurate tissue phantoms are difficult to design due to the complex hyperelastic, viscoelastic and biphasic properties of real soft tissues. The aim of this work is to demonstrate the tissue mimicking ability of a composite hydrogel (CH), constituting of poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) and phytagel (PHY), as a soft tissue phantom over a range mechanical properties, for a variety of biomedical and tissue engineering applications. Its compressive stress-strain behaviour, relaxation response, tensile impact stresses and surgical needle-tissue interactions were mapped and characterised with respect to its constituent hydrogel formulation. The mechanical characterisation of biological tissues was also investigated and the results were used as the ground truth for mimicking. The best mimicking hydrogel compositions were determined by combining the most relevant mechanical properties for each desired application. This thesis demonstrates the use of the tissue mimicking composite hydrogel formulations as tissue phantoms for various surgical procedures, including convection enhanced drug delivery, and traumatic brain injury studies. To expand the applications of the CH, a preliminary biological evaluation of the hydrogel was performed using human dermal fibroblasts. Cell seeded on the collagen-coated composite hydrogel showed good attachment and viability. Finally, a novel fabrication method with the aim of creating samples that replicate the anisotropic properties of biological tissues was developed. A cryogenic 3D printing method utilising the liquid to solid phase change of the composite hydrogel ink was achieved by rapidly cooling the ink solution below its freezing point. The setup was able to successfully create complex 3D brain mimicking material. The method was validated by showing that the mechanical and microstructural properties of the 3D printed material was well matched to its cast-moulded equivalent. This greatly widens the applications of the CH as a mechanically accurate tool for in-vitro testing and also demonstrates promise for future mechanobiology and tissue engineering studies.
Supervisor: Dini, Daniele ; Rodriguez Y. Baena, Ferdinando Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral