Biomechanics and biaxial mechanical stimulation of self-assembly tissue engineered blood vessels
Zaucha, Michael Thomas
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Despite efforts by clinicians and scientists world-wide, coronary artery disease remains to be the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in industrialized nations. Development of a tissue engineered coronary by-pass graft with low thrombogenicity and immune responses, suitable mechanical properties, and a capacity to remodel to their environment could have a significant impact on the treatment of coronary artery disease. While many methods for the tissue engineering of blood vessels have been developed, one promising approach is the self-assembly method. Using autologous cells that produce an endogenous extracellular matrix (ECM), the potential for therapeutic success is high due to biocompatibility. However, despite these advantages, improvements can be made which will give the grafts an even higher rate of patency. This dissertation presents a study of the characterization of the biaxial mechanical properties of self-assembly tissue engineered blood vessels (SA-TEBV), as well as developing a framework for fabrication strategies of SA-TEBV. Native arteries are exposed to multiaxial mechanical loads, including (a pulsatile) blood pressure that causes the vessel to cyclically distend circumferentially, blood flow that induces a shearing load along the luminal surface, and an axial extending load; the latter is relieved upon excision, causing the vessel to retract. These mechanical loads introduce intramural wall stresses and flow induced wall shear stresses that play a key role in mechano-biological signaling and tissue homeostasis. Until now, the mechanical properties of SA-TEBV have only been characterized in the circumferential direction (i.e. burst pressure and circumferential elastic modulus). The objective of this work is to characterize the biaxial mechanical properties of SA-TEBV to quantify their mechanical behavior and local intramural stresses under physiological loading. The work will show that while the global mechanical response of the SA-TEBV is similar to that of native arteries (and potentially sufficient), the local intramural stresses (using the current fabrication techniques) differ greatly from native coronary arteries. Therefore, a novel approach to fabricate the self-assembly derived tissue sheets is developed and tested which utilizes biaxial mechanical stimulation to alter the microstructure, thereby controlling their mechanical response.