N. Pien et al. Polymeric reinforcements for cellularized collagen-based vascular wall models: influence of the scaffold architecture on the mechanical and biological properties. Frontiers of Bioengineering and Biotechnology

N. Pien, D. Di Francesco, F. Copes, M. Bartolf-Kopp, V. Chausse, M. Meeremans, M. Pegueroles 6 , T. Jüngst, C. De Schauwer, F. Boccafoschi, P. Dubruel, S. Van Vlierberghe, D. Mantovani. Polymeric reinforcements for cellularized collagen-based vascular wall models: influence of the scaffold architecture on the mechanical and biological properties. Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. OPEN ACCESS.

doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2023.1285565

Abstract

A previously developed cellularized collagen-based vascular wall model showed promising results in mimicking the biological properties of a native vessel but lacked appropriate mechanical properties. In this work, we aim to improve this collagen-based model by reinforcing it using a tubular polymeric (reinforcement) scaffold. The polymeric reinforcements were fabricated exploiting commercial poly (ε-caprolactone) (PCL), a polymer already used to fabricate other FDA-approved and commercially available devices serving medical applications, through 1) solution electrospinning (SES), 2) 3D printing (3DP) and 3) melt electrowriting (MEW). The non-reinforced cellularized collagen-based model was used as a reference (COL). The effect of the scaffold’s architecture on the resulting mechanical and biological properties of the reinforced collagen-based model were evaluated. SEM imaging showed the differences in scaffolds’ architecture (fiber alignment, fiber diameter and pore size) at both the micro- and the macrolevel. The polymeric scaffold led to significantly improved mechanical properties for the reinforced collagen-based model (initial elastic moduli of 382.05 ± 132.01 kPa, 100.59 ± 31.15 kPa and 245.78 ± 33.54 kPa, respectively for SES, 3DP and MEW at day 7 of maturation) compared to the non-reinforced collagen-based model (16.63 ± 5.69 kPa). Moreover, on day 7, the developed collagen gels showed stresses (for strains between 20% and 55%) in the range of [5–15] kPa for COL, [80–350] kPa for SES, [20–70] kPa for 3DP and [100–190] kPa for MEW. In addition to the effect on the resulting mechanical properties, the polymeric tubes’ architecture influenced cell behavior, in terms of proliferation and attachment, along with collagen gel compaction and extracellular matrix protein expression. The MEW reinforcement resulted in a collagen gel compaction similar to the COL reference, whereas 3DP and SES led to thinner and longer collagen gels. Overall, it can be concluded that 1) the selected processing technique influences the scaffolds’ architecture, which in turn influences the resulting mechanical and biological properties, and 2) the incorporation of a polymeric reinforcement leads to mechanical properties closely matching those of native arteries.

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