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J Biomech. 2012 Mar 15;45(5):756-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.11.015. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Micropatterned cell sheets with defined cell and extracellular matrix orientation exhibit anisotropic mechanical properties.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, College of Engineering, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


For an arterial replacement graft to be effective, it must possess the appropriate strength in order to withstand long-term hemodynamic stress without failure, yet be compliant enough that the mismatch between the stiffness of the graft and the native vessel wall is minimized. The native vessel wall is a structurally complex tissue characterized by circumferentially oriented collagen fibers/cells and lamellar elastin. Besides the biochemical composition, the functional properties of the wall, including stiffness, depend critically on the structural organization. Therefore, it will be crucial to develop methods of producing tissues with defined structures in order to more closely mimic the properties of a native vessel. To this end, we sought to generate cell sheets that have specific ECM/cell organization using micropatterned polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrates to guide cell organization and tissue growth. The patterns consisted of large arrays of alternating grooves and ridges. Adult bovine aortic smooth muscle cells cultured on these substrates in the presence of ascorbic acid produced ECM-rich sheets several cell layers thick in which both the cells and ECM exhibited strong alignment in the direction of the micropattern. Moreover, mechanical testing revealed that the sheets exhibited mechanical anisotropy similar to that of native vessels with both the stiffness and strength being significantly larger in the direction of alignment, demonstrating that the microscale control of ECM organization results in functional changes in macroscale material behavior.

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