Manipulation of remodeling pathways to enhance the mechanical properties of a tissue engineered blood vessel

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There is a current need for a small diameter vascular graft due to the limited supply of autogenous grafts and the failure of synthetic grafts due to thrombosis and/or intimal hyperplasia. The use of living cells and tissues to fabricate a small diameter graft (i.e., tissue engineered blood vessel, TEBV) could be useful given the endothelialization potential and biocompatibility benefits of such a graft. However, while sufficient strength has been attained in a TEBV, coordinate compliance has yet to be fine-tuned. In this study we investigate the effects of biological response modifiers, retinoic acid (RA) and ascorbic acid (AA) on TEBV biomechanics as a function of time and subsequently correlate observed RA/AA induced changes in TEBV mechanics with alterations in smooth muscle cell (SMC) biochemistry. TEBVs were constructed using a fibrillar type I collagen network populated by human aortic smooth muscle cells (AoSMC). Following construction this TEBV was treated with 0.3 mM AA and 0.1 mM RA (concentrations found to induce changes in VSMC phenotype). Ultimate tensile stress (UTS), rate of relaxation (RR) and elastic efficiency (EE) of RA/AA treated and untreated TEBVs were measured following 1, 7, 15, 30, 45, and 60 days of treatment. At corresponding time points, the effect of these treatments on collagen and elastin protein synthesis and mRNA expression was examined. RA/AA treated TEBV strength increased and stiffness decreased compared to controls as a function of time. Relative collagen synthesis in treated TEBVs exceeded control levels by nearly two-fold at 15 and 30 days of incubation. RA/AA treated collagen gene expression followed a similar trend. Relative elastin synthesis was also greater in treated TEBVs as compared to untreated TEBVs at 15 and 30 days of incubation and correspondingly elastin mRNA expression was significantly elevated at 15 days of incubation. These data provide evidence that RA/AA treated TEBVs exhibit mechanical properties which more closely mimic those of a native vessel than their untreated counterparts and that changes in extracellular matrix composition and matrix gene expression in the presence of RA/AA treatment may play an important role in the development of said mechanical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-733
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of biomechanical engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2002


  • Artery
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Biomechanics
  • Collagen
  • Elastin
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Retinoic acid
  • Smooth muscle cells


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