Large strain stimulation promotes extracellular matrix production and stiffness in an elastomeric scaffold model.
ABSTRACT: Mechanical conditioning of engineered tissue constructs is widely recognized as one of the most relevant methods to enhance tissue accretion and microstructure, leading to improved mechanical behaviors. The understanding of the underlying mechanisms remains rather limited, restricting the development of in silico models of these phenomena, and the translation of engineered tissues into clinical application. In the present study, we examined the role of large strip-biaxial strains (up to 50%) on ECM synthesis by vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) micro-integrated into electrospun polyester urethane urea (PEUU) constructs over the course of 3 weeks. Experimental results indicated that VSMC biosynthetic behavior was quite sensitive to tissue strain maximum level, and that collagen was the primary ECM component synthesized. Moreover, we found that while a 30% peak strain level achieved maximum ECM synthesis rate, further increases in strain level lead to a reduction in ECM biosynthesis. Subsequent mechanical analysis of the formed collagen fiber network was performed by removing the scaffold mechanical responses using a strain-energy based approach, showing that the denovo collagen also demonstrated mechanical behaviors substantially better than previously obtained with small strain training and comparable to mature collagenous tissues. We conclude that the application of large deformations can play a critical role not only in the quantity of ECM synthesis (i.e. the rate of mass production), but also on the modulation of the stiffness of the newly formed ECM constituents. The improved understanding of the process of growth and development of ECM in these mechano-sensitive cell-scaffold systems will lead to more rational design and manufacturing of engineered tissues operating under highly demanding mechanical environments.
Project description:A biohybrid composite consisting of extracellular matrix (ECM) gel from porcine dermal tissue and biodegradable elastomeric fibers was generated and evaluated for soft tissue applications. ECM gel possesses attractive biocompatibility and bioactivity with weak mechanical properties and rapid degradation, while electrospun biodegradable poly(ester urethane)urea (PEUU) has good mechanical properties but limited cellular infiltration and tissue integration. A concurrent gel electrospray/polymer electrospinning method was employed to create ECM gel/PEUU fiber composites with attractive mechanical properties, including high flexibility and strength. Electron microscopy revealed a structure of interconnected fibrous layers embedded in ECM gel. Tensile mechanical properties could be tuned by altering the PEUU/ECM weight ratio. Scaffold tensile strengths for PEUU/ECM ratios of 67/33, 72/28 and 80/20 ranged from 80 to 187 kPa in the longitudinal axis (parallel to the collecting mandrel axis) and 41-91 kPa in the circumferential axis with 645-938% breaking strains. The 72/28 biohybrid composite and a control scaffold generated from electrospun PEUU alone were implanted into Lewis rats, replacing a full-thickness abdominal wall defect. At 4 wk, no infection or herniation was found at the implant site. Histological staining showed extensive cellular infiltration into the biohybrid scaffold with the newly developed tissue well integrated with the native periphery, while minimal cellular ingress into the electrospun PEUU scaffold was observed. Mechanical testing of explanted constructs showed evidence of substantial remodeling, with composite scaffolds adopting properties more comparable to the native abdominal wall. The described elastic biohybrid material imparts features of ECM gel bioactivity with PEUU strength and handling to provide a promising composite biomaterial for soft tissue repair and replacement.
Project description:Mechanical loading is a powerful regulator of tissue properties in engineered cardiovascular tissues. To ultimately regulate the biochemical processes, it is essential to quantify the effect of mechanical loading on the properties of engineered cardiovascular constructs. In this study the Flexercell FX-4000T (Flexcell Int. Corp., USA) straining system was modified to simultaneously apply various strain magnitudes to individual samples during one experiment. In addition, porous polyglycolic acid (PGA) scaffolds, coated with poly-4-hydroxybutyrate (P4HB), were partially embedded in a silicone layer to allow long-term uniaxial cyclic mechanical straining of cardiovascular engineered constructs. The constructs were subjected to two different strain magnitudes and showed differences in biochemical properties, mechanical properties and organization of the microstructure compared to the unstrained constructs. The results suggest that when the tissues are exposed to prolonged mechanical stimulation, the production of collagen with a higher fraction of crosslinks is induced. However, straining with a large strain magnitude resulted in a negative effect on the mechanical properties of the tissue. In addition, dynamic straining induced a different alignment of cells and collagen in the superficial layers compared to the deeper layers of the construct. The presented model system can be used to systematically optimize culture protocols for engineered cardiovascular tissues.
Project description:The biological and mechanical function of connective tissues is largely determined by controlled cellular alignment and therefore it seems appropriate that tissue-engineered constructs should be architecturally similar to the in vivo tissue targeted for repair or replacement. Collagen organisation dictates the tensile properties of most tissues and so monitoring the deposition of cell-secreted collagen as the construct develops is essential for understanding tissue formation. In this study, electrospun fibres with a random or high degree of orientation, mimicking two types of tissue architecture found in the body, were used to culture human fibroblasts for controlling cell alignment. The minimally-invasive technique of second harmonic generation was used with the aim of monitoring and profiling the deposition and organisation of collagen at different construct depths over time while construct mechanical properties were also determined over the culture period. It was seen that scaffold fibre organisation affected cell migration and orientation up to 21 days which in turn had an effect on collagen organisation. Collagen in random fibrous constructs was deposited in alternating configurations at different depths however a high degree of organisation was observed throughout aligned fibrous constructs orientated in the scaffold fibre direction. Three-dimensional second harmonic generation images showed that deposited collagen was more uniformly distributed in random constructs but aligned constructs were more organised and had higher intensities. The tensile properties of all constructs increased with increasing collagen deposition and were ultimately dictated by collagen organisation. This study highlights the importance of scaffold architecture for controlling the development of well-organised tissue engineered constructs and the usefulness of second harmonic generation imaging for monitoring collagen maturation in a minimally invasive manner.
Project description:Mechanical failure of soft tissues is characteristic of life-threatening diseases, including capillary stress failure, pulmonary emphysema, and vessel wall aneurysms. Failure occurs when mechanical forces are sufficiently high to rupture the enzymatically weakened extracellular matrix (ECM). Elastin, an important structural ECM protein, is known to stretch beyond 200% strain before failing. However, ECM constructs and native vessel walls composed primarily of elastin and proteoglycans (PGs) have been found to fail at much lower strains. In this study, we hypothesized that PGs significantly contribute to tissue failure. To test this, we developed a zipper network model (ZNM), in which springs representing elastin are organized into long wavy fibers in a zipper-like formation and placed within a network of springs mimicking PGs. Elastin and PG springs possessed distinct mechanical and failure properties. Simulations using the ZNM showed that the failure of PGs alone reduces the global failure strain of the ECM well below that of elastin, and hence, digestion of elastin does not influence the failure strain. Network analysis suggested that whereas PGs drive the failure process and define the failure strain, elastin determines the peak and failure stresses. Predictions of the ZNM were experimentally confirmed by measuring the failure properties of engineered elastin-rich ECM constructs before and after digestion with trypsin, which cleaves the core protein of PGs without affecting elastin. This study reveals a role for PGs in the failure properties of engineered and native ECM with implications for the design of engineered tissues.
Project description:Many cell-based tissue-engineered cartilaginous constructs are mechanically softer than native tissue and have low content and abnormal proportions of extracellular matrix (ECM) constituents. We hypothesized that the load-bearing mechanical properties of cartilaginous constructs improve with the inclusion of collagen (COL) and proteoglycan (PG) during assembly. The objectives of this work were to determine (1) the effect of addition of PG, COL, or COL+PG on compressive properties of 2% agarose constructs and (2) the ability of mechanical compaction to concentrate matrix content and improve the compressive properties of such constructs. The inclusion of COL+PG improved the compressive properties of hydrogel constructs compared with PG or COL alone. Mechanical compaction increased the PG and COL concentrations in and compressive stiffness of the constructs. Chondrocytes included in the constructs maintained high viability after compaction. These results support the concepts that the assembly of cartilaginous constructs with COL+PG and application of mechanical compaction enhance the ECM content and compressive properties of engineered cartilaginous constructs.
Project description:Tendons attach muscles to bone and thereby transmit tensile forces during joint movement. However, a detailed understanding of the mechanisms that establish the mechanical properties of tendon has remained elusive because of the practical difficulties of studying tissue mechanics in vivo. Here we have performed a study of tendon-like constructs made by culturing embryonic tendon cells in fixed-length fibrin gels. The constructs display mechanical properties (toe-linear-fail stress-strain curve, stiffness, ultimate tensile strength, and failure strain) as well as collagen fibril volume fraction and extracellular matrix (ECM)/cell ratio that are statistically similar to those of embryonic chick metatarsal tendons. The development of mechanical properties during time in culture was abolished when the constructs were treated separately with Triton X-100 (to solubilise membranes), cytochalasin (to disassemble the actin cytoskeleton) and blebbistatin (a small molecule inhibitor of non-muscle myosin II). Importantly, these treatments had no effect on the mechanical properties of the constructs that existed prior to treatment. Live-cell imaging and (14)C-proline metabolic labeling showed that blebbistatin inhibited the contraction of the constructs without affecting cell viability, procollagen synthesis, or conversion of procollagen to collagen. In conclusion, the mechanical properties per se of the tendon constructs are attributable to the ECM generated by the cells but the improvement of mechanical properties during time in culture was dependent on non-muscle myosin II-derived forces.
Project description:Cartilage tissue engineering is arising as a technique for the repair of cartilage lesions in clinical applications. However, fibrocartilage formation weakened the mechanical functions of the articular, which compromises the clinical outcomes. Due to the low proliferation ability, dedifferentiation property and low production of cartilage-specific extracellular matrix (ECM) of the chondrocytes, the cartilage synthesis in vitro has been one of the major limitations for obtaining high-quality engineered cartilage constructs. This review discusses cells, biomaterial scaffolds and stimulating factors that can facilitate the cartilage-specific ECM production and accumulation in the in vitro culture system. Special emphasis has been put on the factors that affect the production of ECM macromolecules such as collagen type II and proteoglycans in the review, aiming at providing new strategies to improve the quality of tissue-engineered cartilage.
Project description:Formation of tissue-engineered cartilage is greatly enhanced by mechanical stimulation. However, direct mechanical stimulation is not always a suitable method, and the utilization of mechanisms underlying mechanotransduction might allow for a highly effective and less aggressive alternate means of stimulation. In particular, the purinergic, adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP)-mediated signaling pathway is strongly implicated in mechanotransduction within the articular cartilage. We investigated the effects of transient and continuous exogenous ATP supplementation on mechanical properties of cartilaginous constructs engineered using bovine chondrocytes and human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) encapsulated in an agarose hydrogel. For both cell types, we have observed significant increases in equilibrium and dynamic compressive moduli after transient ATP treatment applied in the fourth week of cultivation. Continuous ATP treatment over 4 weeks of culture only slightly improved the mechanical properties of the constructs, without major changes in the total glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and collagen content. Structure-function analyses showed that transiently ATP-treated constructs, and in particular those based on hMSCs, had the highest level of correlation between compositional and mechanical properties. Transiently treated groups showed intense staining of the territorial matrix for GAGs and collagen type II. These results indicate that transient ATP treatment can improve functional mechanical properties of cartilaginous constructs based on chondrogenic cells and agarose hydrogels, possibly by improving the structural organization of the bulk phase and territorial extracellular matrix (ECM), that is, by increasing correlation slopes between the content of the ECM components (GAG, collagen) and mechanical properties of the construct.
Project description:Cellular spheroids were studied to determine their use as "bioinks" in the biofabrication of tissue engineered constructs. Specifically, magnetic forces were used to mediate the cyclic longitudinal stretching of tissues composed of Janus magnetic cellular spheroids (JMCSs), as part of a post-processing method for enhancing the deposition and mechanical properties of an extracellular matrix (ECM). The purpose was to accelerate the conventional tissue maturation process via novel post-processing techniques that accelerate the functional, structural, and mechanical mimicking of native tissues. The results of a forty-day study of JMCSs indicated an expression of collagen I, collagen IV, elastin, and fibronectin, which are important vascular ECM proteins. Most notably, the subsequent exposure of fused tissue sheets composed of JMCSs to magnetic forces did not hinder the production of these key proteins. Quantitative results demonstrate that cyclic longitudinal stretching of the tissue sheets mediated by these magnetic forces increased the Young's modulus and induced collagen fiber alignment over a seven day period, when compared to statically conditioned controls. Specifically, the elastin and collagen content of these dynamically-conditioned sheets were 35- and three-fold greater, respectively, at seven days compared to the statically-conditioned controls at three days. These findings indicate the potential of using magnetic forces in tissue maturation, specifically through the cyclic longitudinal stretching of tissues.
Project description:Biodegradable thermoplastic elastomers are attractive for application in cardiovascular tissue construct development due to their amenability to a wide range of physical property tuning. For heart valve leaflets, while low flexural stiffness is a key design feature, control of this parameter has been largely neglected in the scaffold literature where electrospinning is being utilized. This study evaluated the effect of processing variables and secondary fiber populations on the microstructure, tensile and bending mechanics of electrospun biodegradable polyurethane scaffolds for heart valve tissue engineering. Scaffolds were fabricated from poly(ester urethane) urea (PEUU) and the deposition mandrel was translated at varying rates in order to modify fiber intersection density. Scaffolds were also fabricated in conjunction with secondary fiber populations designed either for mechanical reinforcement or to be selectively removed following fabrication. It was determined that increasing fiber intersection densities within PEUU scaffolds was associated with lower bending moduli. Further, constructs fabricated with stiff secondary fiber populations had higher bending moduli whereas constructs with secondary fiber populations which were selectively removed had noticeably lower bending moduli. Insights gained from this work will be directly applicable to the fabrication of soft tissue constructs, specifically in the development of cardiac valve tissue constructs.