Plant-Derived Zein as an Alternative to Animal-Derived Gelatin for Use as a Tissue Engineering Scaffold

Apurva Limaye, Venkatesan Perumal, Courtney M. Karner, Treena Livingston Arinzeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Natural biomaterials are commonly used as tissue engineering scaffolds due to their biocompatibility and biodegradability. Plant-derived materials have also gained significant interest due to their abundance and as a sustainable resource. This study evaluates the corn-derived protein zein as a plant-derived substitute for animal-derived gelatin, which is widely used for its favorable cell adhesion properties. Limited studies exist evaluating pure zein for tissue engineering. Herein, fibrous zein scaffolds are evaluated in vitro for cell adhesion, growth, and infiltration into the scaffold in comparison to gelatin scaffolds and are further studied in a subcutaneous model in vivo. Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) on zein scaffolds express focal adhesion kinase and integrins such as α v β 3, α 4, and β 1 similar to gelatin scaffolds. MSCs also infiltrate zein scaffolds with a greater penetration depth than cells on gelatin scaffolds. Cells loaded onto zein scaffolds in vivo show higher cell proliferation and CD31 expression, as an indicator of blood vessel formation. Findings also demonstrate the capability of zein scaffolds to maintain the multipotent capability of MSCs. Overall, findings demonstrate plant-derived zein may be a suitable alternative to the animal-derived gelatin and demonstrates zein's potential as a scaffold for tissue engineering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2300104
JournalAdvanced NanoBiomed Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Biomaterials


  • electrospinning
  • gelatin
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • tissue engineering
  • zein


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