Silk fibroin porous scaffolds by N<sub>2</sub>O foaming

<p>Silk fibroin has acquired increasing interest for biomedical applications, and namely for the fabrication of scaffolds for tissue engineering, because of its highly positive biological interaction and the possibility to adapt the material to several application requirements by adopting different fabrication methods, in order to make films, sponges, fibers, nets or gels with predictable degradation times. For tissue engineering, in most cases porous scaffolds are required, in some cases possibly <i>in situ</i> forming and therefore fabricated in mild body-compatible conditions. In this work, we present a novel one-step method for the preparation of silk fibroin foams starting from water solutions and using low-pressure nitrous oxide gas as foaming agent. This foaming technique allows preparing fibroin porous scaffolds with easily tunable porosity, in mild processing conditions with the use of a relatively inert foaming agent saturating a fibroin water solution, that could be occasionally injected through a thin needle in the implantation site where expansion and foaming would occur. Optimal foaming processing conditions have been investigated, and the prepared foams have been characterized with Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) compressive mechanical and rheological properties measurements, and by scanning electron microscopy and microCT.</p>