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Biomed Mater. 2017 Mar 6;12(2):025003. doi: 10.1088/1748-605X/aa5bbc.

Electrospun scaffolds functionalized with heparin and vascular endothelial growth factor increase the proliferation of endothelial progenitor cells.

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Hematology and Stem Cell Laboratory, Faculty of Pharmacy, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre 90.610-000, Brazil. Post-graduate Program in Physiology, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, 90050-170, Brazil.


In severe cases of peripheral arterial disease, tissue loss can occur and the use of vascular grafts can be necessary. However, currently, there are no suitable substitutes for application in small diameter vessels. The aim of this work has been to produce scaffolds with adequate properties for application as vascular substitutes. Polycaprolactone scaffolds were produced by the electrospinning technique. The surface of the scaffolds was functionalized with heparin and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and their physical-chemical properties were characterized. Human endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were seeded onto the surface of the scaffolds in order to create an endothelial layer. The electrospun scaffolds exhibited mechanical properties compatible with the native arteries. The presence of heparin prevented blood coagulation on the scaffold surface. The presence of heparin and VEGF favored the adaptation of MSCs and EPCs on the scaffolds in relation to the non functionalized scaffolds. In addition, the EPCs cultivated on the scaffolds maintained the expression of CD31, CD34 and VE-cadherin genes. The results obtained in the present study suggest that electrospun scaffolds functionalized with heparin and VEGF can be applied in vascular tissue engineering. These scaffolds exhibited antithrombogenic properties and favored the development of cells on their surface. The association of heparin and VEGF with electrospun scaffolds increased EPC proliferation, favoring the formation of the endothelial layer and the regeneration of damaged vessels.

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