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Open Biomaterials Research


In this Guest Blog, Guest Editors from the Open Biomaterials Research Collection discuss the range of research topics featured in the collection, their contributions to open science and promotion of reproducibility via shared protocols in biomaterials research.


PLOS ONE’s Open Biomaterials Research Collection was launched with a broad invitation to the biomaterials community to submit papers under the premise of Open Science. This provides an innovative home for interdisciplinary research in all areas of biomaterials, aiming at enhancing interactions and collaboration between the biomedical and materials sciences and engineering disciplines. The papers published in this collection cover a wide range of cutting-edge topics, ranging from the design and fabrication of biomaterials, their characterization and biomedical applications.  Of particular importance, we requested that authors consider sharing and utilizing new open source tools, recipes, and protocols in biomaterials research practices, and that they should share the underlying raw data, including vital replications of previous studies, or null and negative results. Submissions were also assessed based on their commitment to reproducibility, for instance, it was specially required that all data underlying the main results were made openly available upon publication.


One important aspect of this Collection, which we expect will make an important contribution to the biomaterials science community, is to answer the question: “how can we make biomaterials results and outcomes more repeatable?”. Our premise is that this will be made possible by 1) sharing all protocols and recipes, 2) making data and source code fully accessible, and 3) detailing practices critical to the success of an experiment. Further specific aspects of biomaterials research, including chemical functionalization strategies with quantitative information, the number of chemical syntheses attempted, average yields obtained, statistical data, process parameters and specific laboratory equipment used, etc., were encouraged, in addition to presenting the details of all chemicals used and their suppliers.


The variety of biomaterials and structures reported in this collection reflect the breadth of the field: functional biomaterials ranging from antibacterial nanofibers to composite hydrogels, applications from controlled drug delivery systems to scaffolds for guided tissue regeneration, biomaterials design and assembly from the nano- to macroscale, fabrication strategies from 3D printing to electrospinning, therapeutics and drug delivery. Indeed, many contributions to this call report the full and reproducible characterizations of biomaterials and underscore the correlation between physico-chemical properties and their applications.


Juan C. Sepúlveda-Arias et al., for example, highlight the need to fully understand the mechanical and structural behaviour of natural fibre-based hydrogel scaffolds to determine their biomedical applications using a variety of techniques. Other papers have focused on the functional enhancement of biomaterials, either by applying novel assemblies, fabrication techniques or via chemical functionalisation. The work reported by Felix A. Plamper and co-workers introduces a strategy to increase the stability of self-assembled block copolymer liposomes via the inclusion of cationic polyelectrolytes to increase membrane stability and drug delivery potential. Several papers in this call have demonstrated exemplary efforts in sharing the underlying data and source code to guarantee data accessibility, integrity and reproducibility. Some have done this by depositing their data or source code in publicly available databases (for example, the use of an open source Python package for the performance and orientation analysis of scaffold fibres as reported by Roman Shkarin et al.), or deposited their work in pre-print servers like bioRxiv and ChemRxiv (for example, Eva Rose Balog and co-workers have used the latter pre-print server to report the use of flow imaging microscopy as a new tool to assess biopolymer microparticle morphologies and functionalities).


The guest editors thank the PLOS ONE editorial board members who oversaw this collection, the referees for their valuable and timely evaluation of papers and, last but not least, the authors for choosing this Collection to disseminate their results.

About the Authors

Aldo R. Boccaccini

Aldo is Professor of Biomaterials and Head of the Institute of Biomaterials at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. His multidisciplinary research group studies bioactive glasses and coatings, ceramics and polymer/glass composites for biomedical applications such as tissue engineering scaffolds and drug delivery. Aldo is an Academic Editor for PLOS ONE having joined our board in 2017.


Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli

Kimberly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She carries out research on Nanotechnology, Nanobiotechnology, Nanomaterials and Rapid Diagnostics. Her lab focuses on studying the interface between nanoparticles and biomolecules to engineer biomedical materials. She joined the PLOS ONE editorial board in 2017.


Michael C. McAlpine

Michael is the Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. His research is focused on using 3D printing for regenerative bioelectronics, smart prosthetics, biomedical devices, and human-machine interfaces. He has been a member of the editorial board of PLOS ONE since 2017


Jie Song

Jie is a Professor of Orthopedics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS). Her research focus is on the design of functional Biomaterials and stem cell-based bone and cartilage tissue regeneration, as well as identifying drug delivery targets for osteoarthritis. She has been a member of the editorial board of PLOS ONE since 2017


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