Urochordates are the closest invertebrate relative to humans and commonly referred to as tunicates, a name ascribed to their leathery outer “tunic”. The tunic is the outer covering of the organism which functions as the exoskeleton and is rich in carbohydrates and proteins. Invasive or fouling tunicates pose a great threat to the indigenous marine ecosystem and governments spend several hundred thousand dollars for tunicate management, considering the huge adverse economic impact it has on the shipping and fishing industries. In this work , the environmentally destructive colonizing tunicate species of Polyclinum constellatum was successfully identified in the coast of Abu Dhabi and methods of sustainably using it as wound-dressing materials, decellularized extra-cellular matrix (dECM) scaffolds for tissue engineering applications and bioinks for bioprinting of tissue constructs for regenerative medicine are proposed. The intricate three-dimensional nanofibrous cellulosic networks in the tunic remain intact even after the multi-step process of decellularization and lyophilization. The lyophilized dECM tunics possess excellent biocompatibility and remarkable tensile modulus of 3.85 ± 0.93 MPa compared to ∼0.1–1 MPa of other hydrogel systems. This work demonstrates the use of lyophilized tunics as wound-dressing materials, having outperformed the commercial dressing materials with a capacity of absorbing 20 times its weight in the dry state. This work also demonstrates the biocompatibility of dECM scaffold and dECM-derived bioink (3D bioprinting with Mouse Embryonic Fibroblasts (MEFs)). Both dECM scaffolds and bioprinted dECM-based tissue constructs show enhanced metabolic activity and cell proliferation over time.
 Govindharaj, M. et al., J. Clean. Prod. 330, 129923 (2022).