In-vivo assessment of a tissue engineered vascular graft computationally optimized for target vessel compliance

Kenneth J Furdella, Shinichi Higuchi, Ali Behrangzade, Kang Kim, William R Wagner, Jonathan P Vande Geest
Acta Biomaterialia 2021 January 19
Tissue engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs) have the ability to be tuned to match a target vessel's compliance, diameter, wall thickness, and thereby prevent compliance mismatch. In this work, TEVG compliance was manipulated by computationally tuning its layered composition or by manipulating a crosslinking agent (genipin). In particular, these three acelluluar TEVGs were compared: a compliance matched graft (CMgel - high gelatin content); a hypocompliant PCL graft (HYPOpcl - high polycaprolactone content); and a hypocompliant genipin graft (HYPOgen - equivalent composition as CMgel but hypocompliant via increased genipin crosslinking). All constructs were implanted interpositionally into the abdominal aorta of 21 Sprague Dawley rats (n=7, males=11, females=10) for 28 days, imaged in-vivo using ultrasound, explanted, and assessed for remodeling using immunofluorescence and two photon excitation fluorescence imaging. Compliance matched grafts remained compliance-matched in-vivo compared to the hypocompliant grafts through 4 weeks (p<0.05). Construct degradation and cellular infiltration was increased in the CMgel and HYPOgen TEVGs. Contractile smooth muscle cell markers in the proximal anastomosis of the graft were increased in the CMgel group compared to the HYPOpcl (p=0.007) and HYPOgen grafts (p=0.04). Both hypocompliant grafts also had an increased pro-inflammatory response (increased ratio of CD163 to CD86 in the mid-axial location) compared to the CMgel group. Our results suggest that compliance matching using a computational optimization approach leads to the improved acute (28 day) remodeling of TEVGs. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first in-vivo rat study investigating TEVGs that have been computationally optimized for target vessel compliance.

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