Novel PEG-elastin copolymer for tissue engineered vascular grafts

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Patel, Dhaval Pradipkumar
Taite, Lakeshia J.
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The growing incidences of coronary artery bypass graft surgeries have triggered a need to engineer a viable small diameter blood vessel substitute. An ideal tissue engineered vascular graft should mimic the microenvironment of a native blood vessel, while providing the adequate compliance post-implantation. Current vascular graft technologies lack the ability to promote vascular ECM deposition, leading to a compliance mismatch and ultimately, graft failure. Hence, in order to engineer suitable vascular grafts, this thesis describes the synthesis and characterization of novel elastin mimetic peptides, EM-19 and EM-23, capable of promoting vascular ECM deposition within a poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEG-DA) hydrogel. By combining the material properties of a synthetic and bio-inspired polymer, a suitable microenvironment for cell growth and ECM deposition can be engineered, leading to improved compliance. As such, characterization of EM-19 and EM-23 was conducted in human vascular smooth muscle cell (SMC) cultures, and the peptides self-assembled with a growing elastic matrix. After grafting the peptides onto the surface of PEG-DA hydrogels, EM-23 increased SMC adhesion by 6000% over PEG-RGDS hydrogels, which have been the gold standard of cell adhesive PEG scaffolds. Moreover, EM-23 grafted surfaces were able to promote elastin deposition that was comparable to tissue cultured polystyrene (TCPS) surface even though TCPS had roughly 4.5 times more SMCs adhered. Once translated to a 3D model, EM-23 also stimulated increased elastin deposition and improved the mechanical strength of the scaffold over time. Moreover, degradation studies suggested that EM-23 may serve as a template that not only promotes ECM deposition, but also allows ECM remodeling over time. The characterization studies in this thesis suggest that this peptide is an extremely promising candidate for improving vascular ECM deposition within a synthetic substrate, and that it may be beneficial to incorporate EM-23 within polymeric scaffolds to engineer compliant vascular grafts.
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