Development of Small Diameter Nanofiber Tissue Engineered Arterial Grafts
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The surgical repair of heart and vascular disease often requires implanting synthetic grafts. While synthetic grafts have been successfully used for medium-to-large sized arteries, applications for small diameter arteries (<6 mm) is limited due to high rates of occlusion by thrombosis. Our objective was to develop a tissue engineered vascular graft (TEVG) for small diameter arteries. TEVGs composed of polylactic acid nanofibers with inner luminal diameter between 0.5 and 0.6 mm were surgically implanted as infra-renal aortic interposition conduits in 25 female C17SCID/bg mice. Twelve mice were given sham operations. Survival of mice with TEVG grafts was 91.6% at 12 months post-implantation (sham group: 83.3%). No instances of graft stenosis or aneurysmal dilatation were observed over 12 months post-implantation, assessed by Doppler ultrasound and microCT. Histologic analysis of explanted TEVG grafts showed presence of CD31-positive endothelial monolayer and F4/80-positive macrophages after 4, 8, and 12 months in vivo. Cells positive for α-smooth muscle actin were observed within TEVG, demonstrating presence of smooth muscle cells (SMCs). Neo-extracellular matrix consisting mostly of collagen types I and III were observed at 12 months post-implantation. PCR analysis supports histological observations. TEVG group showed significant increases in expressions of SMC marker, collagen-I and III, matrix metalloproteinases-2 and 9, and itgam (a macrophage marker), when compared to sham group. Overall, patency rates were excellent at 12 months after implantation, as structural integrity of these TEVG. Tissue analysis also demonstrated vessel remodeling by autologous cell.