Modeling the impact of scaffold architecture and mechanical loading on collagen turnover in engineered cardiovascular tissues
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The anisotropic collagen architecture of an engineered cardiovascular tissue has a major impact on its in vivo mechanical performance. This evolving collagen architecture is determined by initial scaffold microstructure and mechanical loading. Here, we developed and validated a theoretical and computational microscale model to quantitatively understand the interplay between scaffold architecture and mechanical loading on collagen synthesis and degradation. Using input from experimental studies, we hypothesize that both the microstructure of the scaffold and the loading conditions influence collagen turnover. The evaluation of the mechanical and topological properties of in vitro engineered constructs reveals that the formation of extracellular matrix layers on top of the scaffold surface influences the mechanical anisotropy on the construct. Results show that the microscale model can successfully capture the collagen arrangement between the fibers of an electrospun scaffold under static and cyclic loading conditions. Contact guidance by the scaffold, and not applied load, dominates the collagen architecture. Therefore, when the collagen grows inside the pores of the scaffold, pronounced scaffold anisotropy guarantees the development of a construct that mimics the mechanical anisotropy of the native cardiovascular tissue.