In recent years, there has been an increasing interest toward the covalent binding of bioactive peptides from extracellular matrix proteins on scaffolds as a promising functionalization strategy in the development of biomimetic matrices for tissue engineering. A totally new approach for scaffold functionalization with peptides is based on Molecular Imprinting technology. In this work, imprinted particles with recognition properties toward laminin and fibronectin bioactive moieties were synthetized and used for the functionalization of biomimetic sponges, which were based on a blend of alginate, gelatin, and elastin. Functionalized sponges underwent a complete morphological, physicochemical, mechanical, functional, and biological characterization. Micrographs of functionalized sponges showed a highly porous structure and a quite homogeneous distribution of imprinted particles on their surface. Infrared and thermal analyses pointed out the presence of interactions between blend components. Biodegradation and mechanical properties appeared adequate for the aimed application. The results of recognition tests showed that the deposition on sponges did not alter the specific recognition and binding behavior of imprinted particles. In vitro biological characterization with cardiac progenitor cells showed that early cell adherence was promoted. In vivo analysis showed that developed scaffolds improved cardiac progenitor cell adhesion and differentiation toward myocardial phenotypes.
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