Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering: Scaffold Architecture and Matrix Strain Modulate Mesenchymal Cell and Microvascular Growth and Development in a Time Dependent Manner
2020 CMBE Young Innovators issue
Volumetric tissue-engineered constructs are limited in development due to the dependence on well-formed vascular networks. Scaffold pore size and the mechanical properties of the matrix dictate cell attachment, proliferation, and successive tissue morphogenesis. We hypothesize scaffold pore architecture also controls stromal-vessel interactions during morphogenesis.
The interaction between mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) seeded on hydroxyapatite scaffolds of 450, 340, and 250 μm pores and microvascular fragments (MVFs) seeded within 20 mg/mL fibrin hydrogels that were cast into the cell-seeded scaffolds, was assessed in vitro over 21 days and compared to the fibrin hydrogels without scaffold but containing both MSCs and MVFs. mRNA sequencing was performed across all groups and a computational mechanics model was developed to validate architecture effects on predicting vascularization driven by stiffer matrix behavior at scaffold surfaces compared to the pore interior.
Lectin staining of decalcified scaffolds showed continued vessel growth, branching, and network formation at 14 days. The fibrin gel provides no resistance to spread-out capillary network formation, with greater vessel loops within the 450 μm pores and vessels bridging across 250 μm pores. Vessel growth in the scaffolds was observed to be stimulated by hypoxia and successive angiogenic signaling. Fibrin gels showed a linear fold increase in VEGF expression and no change in BMP2. Within scaffolds, there was a multiple fold increase in VEGF between days 7 and 14 and early multiple fold increases in BMP2 between days 3 and 7, relative to fibrin. There was evidence of yap/taz based hippo signaling and mechanotransduction in the scaffold groups. The vessel growth models determined by computational modeling matched the trends observed experimentally.
The differing nature of hypoxia signaling between scaffold systems and mechano-transduction sensing matrix mechanics was primarily responsible for differences in osteogenic cell and microvessel growth. The computational model implicated scaffold architecture in dictating branching morphology and strain in the hydrogel within pores in dictating vessel lengths.