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Matrix Biol. 2011 Jun;30(5-6):346-55. doi: 10.1016/j.matbio.2011.04.005. Epub 2011 May 11.

Heparin stimulates elastogenesis: application to silk-based vascular grafts.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


With over 500,000 coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG) performed annually in the United States alone, there is a significant clinical need for a small diameter tissue engineered vascular graft. A principle goal in tissue engineering is to develop materials and growth conditions that encourage appropriate recellularization and extracellular matrix formation in vivo. A particular challenge in vascular engineering results from the inability of adult cells to produce elastin, as its expression is developmentally limited. We investigated factors to stimulate elastogenesis in vitro, and found that heparin treatment of adult human vascular smooth muscle cells promoted the formation of elastic fibers. This effect was heparin-specific, and dependent on cell density and growth state. We then applied this information to a silk-based construct, and found that immobilized heparin showed essentially identical biological effects to that of soluble heparin. These findings indicate that heparinized vascular grafts may promote elastin formation and regulate restenosis, in addition to heparin's well-established antithrombotic properties. Given the increase in elastin mRNA level and the increase in extracellular elastin present, our data suggests that there may be multiple levels of elastin regulation that are mediated by heparin treatment.

Copyright © 2011 International Society of Matrix Biology. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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