Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) impart important functional characteristics in the native artery and, therefore, should logically be incorporated in the development of tissue-engineered blood vessels. However, the native architecture and low porosity of naturally derived biomaterials (i.e., decellularized vessels) have impeded efforts to seed and incorporate a VSMC layer in tissue-engineered blood vessels. To this end, the goal of this study was to develop improved methods for seeding, proliferation, and maturation of VSMCs on decellularized porcine carotid arteries. Decellularized vessels were prepared in the absence and presence of the adventitial layer, and statically seeded with a pipette containing a suspension of rat aortic VSMCs. After cell seeding, recellularized engineered vessels were placed in a custom bioreactor system for 1-2 weeks to enhance cellular proliferation, alignment, and maturation. Initial attachment of VSMCs was dramatically enhanced by removing the adventitial layer of the decellularized porcine artery. Moreover, cyclic bioreactor conditioning (i.e., flow and pressure) resulted in increased VSMC proliferation and accelerated formation of a muscularized medial layer in the absence of the adventitial layer during the first week of preconditioning. Fura-2-based digital imaging microscopy revealed marked and reproducible depolarization-induced calcium mobilization after bioreactor preconditioning in the absence, but not in the presence, of the adventitia. The major finding of this investigation is that bioreactor preconditioning accelerates the formation of a significant muscular layer on decellularized scaffolds, in particular on adventitia-denuded scaffolds. Further, the VSMC layer of bioreactor- preconditioned vessels was capable of mobilizing calcium in response to cellular depolarization. These findings represent an important first step toward the development of tissue-engineered vascular grafts that more closely mimic native vasculature.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering