Tissue Engineering Approaches for Studying the Effect of Biochemical and Physiological Stimuli on Cell Behavior



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Tissue engineering (TE) approaches have emerged as an alternative to traditional tissue and organ replacements. The aim of this work was to contribute to the understanding of the effects of cell-material and endothelial cell (EC) paracrine signaling on cell responses using poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogels as a material platform. Three TE applications were explored. First, the effect of glycosaminoglycan (GAG) identity was evaluated for vocal fold restoration. Second, the influence of GAG identity was explored and a novel approach for stable endothelialization was developed for vascular graft applications. Finally, EC paracrine signaling in the presence of cyclic stretch, and hydrophobicity and inorganic content were studied for osteogenic applications.

In terms of vocal fold restoration, it was found that vocal fold fibroblast (VFF) phenotype and extracellular matrix (ECM) production were impacted by GAG identity. VFF phenotype was preserved in long-term cultured hydrogels containing high molecular weight hyaluronan (HAHMW). Furthermore, collagen I deposition, fibronectin production and smooth muscle alpha-actin (SM-alpha-actin) expression in PEG-HA, PEG-chondroitin sulfate C and PEG- heparan sulfate (HS) gels suggest that CSC and HS may be undesirable for vocal fold implants.

Regarding vascular graft applications, the impact of GAG identity on smooth muscle cell (SMC) foam cell formation was explored. Results support the increasing body of literature that suggests a critical role for dermatan sulfate (DS)-bearing proteoglycans in early atherosclerosis. In addition, an approach for fabricating bi-layered tissue engineering vascular grafts (TEVGs) with stable endothelialization was validated using PEGDA as an intercellular "cementing" agent between adjacent endothelial cells (ECs).

Finally, mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) differentiation toward osteogenic like cells was evaluated. ECM and cell phenotypic data showed that elevated scaffold inorganic content and hydrophobicity were indeed correlated with increased osteogenic differentiation. Moreover, the present results suggest that EC paracrine signaling enhances MSC osteogenesis in the presence of cyclic stretch.