Based on plastically compressed cell-seeded collagen gels, we fabricated a small-diameter tubular construct that withstands arterial pressure without prolonged culture in vitro. Specifically, to mimic the microstructure of vascular media, the cell-seeded collagen gel was uniaxially stretched prior to plastic compression to align collagen fibers and hence cells in the gel. The resulting gel sheet was then wrapped around a custom-made multi-layered braided tube to form aligned tubular constructs whereas the gel sheet prepared similarly but without uniaxial stretching formed control constructs. With the braided tube, fluid in the gel construct was further removed by vacuum suction aiming to consolidate the concentric layers of the construct. The construct was finally treated with transglutaminase. Both SEM and histology confirmed the absence of gaps in the wall of the construct. Particularly, cells in the wall of the aligned tubular construct were circumferentially aligned. The enzyme-mediated crosslinking increased burst pressure of both the constructs significantly; the extent of the increase of burst pressure for the aligned tubular construct was greater than that for the control counterpart. Increasing crosslinking left the compliance of the aligned tubular construct unchanged but reduced that of the control construct. Cells remained viable in transglutaminase-treated plastically compressed gels after 6 days in culture. This study demonstrated that by combining stretch-induced fiber alignment, plastic compression, and enzyme-mediated crosslinking, a cell-seeded collagen gel-based tubular construct with potential to be used as vascular media can be made within 3 days.
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