Mechanical characterization of a customized decellularized scaffold for vascular tissue engineering.
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Several challenges persist when attempting to utilize decellularized tissue as a scaffold for vascular tissue engineering. Namely: poor cell infiltration/migration, excessive culture times associated with repopulating the scaffolds, and the achievement of a quiescent medial layer. In an attempt to create an optimum vascular scaffold, we customized the properties of decellularized porcine carotid arteries by: (i) creating cavities within the medial layer to allow direct injection of cells, and (ii) controlling the amount of collagen digestion to increase the porosity. Histological examination of our customized scaffold revealed a highly porous tissue structure containing consistent medial cavities running longitudinally through the porous scaffold wall. Mechanical testing of the customized scaffold showed that our minimal localized disruption to the ECM does not have a detrimental effect on the bulk mechanical response of the tissue. The results demonstrate that an increased stiffness and reduced distensibility occurs after decellularization when compared to the native tissue, however post scaffold customization we can revert the scaffold tensile properties back to that of the native tissue. This most noteworthy result occurs in the elastin dominant phase of the tensile response of the scaffold, indicating that no disruption has occurred to the elastin network by our decellularization and customization techniques. Additionally, the bulk seeding potential of the customized scaffold was demonstrated by direct injection of human smooth muscle cells through the medial cavities. The optimum cell dispersion was observed in the highest porosity scaffold, with large cell numbers retained within the medial layer after 24 h static culture. In summary, this study presents a novel customized decellularized vascular scaffold that has the capability of bulk seeding the media, and in tandem to this method, the porosity of the scaffold has been increased without compromising the mechanical integrity.