Endothelial Cell–Smooth Muscle Cell Co-Culture in a Perfusion Bioreactor System
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Vascular endothelial cells (EC) are exposed to a complex biomechanical environment in vivo and are responsible for relaying important messages to the underlying tissue. EC and smooth muscle cells (SMC) communicate to regulate vascular development and function. In this work, a vascular perfusion bioreactor is used to grow tubular constructs seeded with EC and SMC under pulsatile shear stress in long-term co-culture to study the effects of EC on SMC function. SMC seeded into porous poly(glycolic acid) tubular scaffolds are cultured in the bioreactor for 25 days. Constructs are seeded with EC on day 10 or day 23 creating 2-day (short-term) or 15-day (long-term) EC and SMC co-cultures. Long-term EC–SMC co-culture significantly increases cell proliferation and downregulates collagen and proteoglycan deposition compared to short-term co-culture. After 25 days of culture, 15-day co-culture constructs have a more uniform cell distribution across the construct thickness and SMC express a more contractile phenotype compared to 2-day co-culture constructs. These data demonstrate strong interactions between SMC and EC in the bioreactor under physiologically relevant conditions. Thus, the vascular construct perfusion bioreactor is an important tool to investigate cell–cell and cell–extracellular matrix interactions in vascular cell biology and tissue engineering.
KeywordsVascular grafts Bioreactor Tissue engineering Endothelial cells Smooth muscle cells Co-culture Arteries Blood vessel substitute
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