Dynamic, Nondestructive Imaging of a Bioengineered Vascular Graft Endothelium

<div><p>Bioengineering of vascular grafts holds great potential to address the shortcomings associated with autologous and conventional synthetic vascular grafts used for small diameter grafting procedures. Lumen endothelialization of bioengineered vascular grafts is essential to provide an antithrombogenic graft surface to ensure long-term patency after implantation. Conventional methods used to assess endothelialization <i>in vitro</i> typically involve periodic harvesting of the graft for histological sectioning and staining of the lumen. Endpoint testing methods such as these are effective but do not provide real-time information of endothelial cells in their intact microenvironment, rather only a single time point measurement of endothelium development. Therefore, nondestructive methods are needed to provide dynamic information of graft endothelialization and endothelium maturation <i>in vitro</i>. To address this need, we have developed a nondestructive fiber optic based (FOB) imaging method that is capable of dynamic assessment of graft endothelialization without disturbing the graft housed in a bioreactor. In this study we demonstrate the capability of the FOB imaging method to quantify electrospun vascular graft endothelialization, EC detachment, and apoptosis in a nondestructive manner. The electrospun scaffold fiber diameter of the graft lumen was systematically varied and the FOB imaging system was used to noninvasively quantify the affect of topography on graft endothelialization over a 7-day period. Additionally, results demonstrated that the FOB imaging method had a greater imaging penetration depth than that of two-photon microscopy. This imaging method is a powerful tool to optimize vascular grafts and bioreactor conditions <i>in vitro</i>, and can be further adapted to monitor endothelium maturation and response to fluid flow bioreactor preconditioning.</p> </div>