Biologically-engineered mechanical model of a calcified artery

Greeshma Thrivikraman, Sandra L. Johnson, Zeeshan H. Syedain, Ryan C. Hill, Kirk C. Hansen, Han Seung Lee, Robert T. Tranquillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Vascular calcification is a commonly occurring pathological process and is recognized as an independent prognostic marker for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Recent progress in developing novel therapies to modify vascular calcification is critically hampered due to the lack of reliable in vitro experimental models that recapitulate the structural and mechanical attributes of calcified arteries. In this study, we show the ability to model the behavior of diffuse vascular calcification in vitro using biologically-engineered grafts approximating the composition, structure, and mechanical properties of arteries. Transmural calcification was achieved by exposing the acellular grafts of collagenous ECM to complete medium containing elevated Calcium (Ca) and Phosphate (P) concentrations. It was found that increasing the serum concentration from 2% to 10% increased the extent and degree of calcification based on histochemical, ultrastructural, chemical and thermal analyses. The presence of variably-sized spherical calcific deposits within the matrix further confirmed its morphological similarity to pathologic calcification. Mechanical testing demonstrated up to a 16-fold decrease in compliance due to the calcification, consistent with prior reports for calcified arteries. The model developed thus has potential to improve the design and development of interventional devices and therapies for the diagnosis and treatment of arterial calcification. Statement of Significance: The presence of extensive vascular calcification makes angiographic/interventional procedures difficult due to reduced arterial compliance. Current attempts to develop safe and effective non-surgical adjunctive techniques to treat calcified arteries are largely limited by the lack of a physiologically relevant testing platform that mimics the structural and mechanical features of vascular calcification. Herein, we developed an off-the-shelf calcified artery model, with the goal to accelerate the pre-clinical development of novel therapies for the management of arterial calcification. To the extent of our knowledge, this is the first report of an in vitro tissue-engineered model of diffuse arterial calcification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • Calcified artery model
  • Mechanical testing
  • Tissue engineered vascular grafts

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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