Buijtenhuijs, P. Tissue engineering of blood vessels: characterisation of smooth muscle cells for culturing on collagen and elastin based scaffolds

Buijtenhuijs, P., Buttafoco, L., Poot, A.A., Dijkstra, P.J., Vos, R.A.I. de, Sterk, L.M.Th., Geelkerken, R.H., Feijen, J. and Vermes, I.

Biotechnology and applied biochemistry 39, 141-149

Tissue engineering offers the opportunity to develop vascular scaffolds that mimic the morphology of natural arteries. We have developed a porous three-dimensional scaffold consisting of fibres of collagen and elastin interspersed together. Scaffolds were obtained by freeze-drying a suspension of insoluble type I collagen and insoluble elastin. In order to improve the stability of the obtained matrices, they were cross-linked by two different methods. A water-soluble carbodi-imide, alone or in combination with a diamine, was used for this purpose: zero- or non-zero-length cross-links were obtained. The occurrence of cross-linking was verified by monitoring the thermal behaviour and the free-amino-group contents of the scaffolds before and after cross-linking. Smooth-muscle cells (SMCs) were cultured for different periods of time and their ability to grow and proliferate was investigated. SMCs were isolated from human umbilical and saphenous veins, and the purity of the cultures obtained was verified by staining with a specific monoclonal antibody (mAb). Cultured cells were also identified by mAbs against muscle actin and vimentin. After 14 days, a confluent layer of SMCs was obtained on non-cross-linked scaffolds. As for the cross-linked samples, no differences in cell attachment and proliferation were observed between scaffolds cross-linked using the two different methods. Cells cultured on the scaffolds were identified with an anti-(alpha-smooth-muscle actin) mAb. The orientation of SMCs resembled that of the fibres of collagen and elastin. In this way, it may be possible to develop tubular porous scaffolds resembling the morphological characteristics of native blood vessels.