The aim of the current study was to explore the separate and coupled effects of endothelial cell (EC) presence and mechanical conditioning on smooth muscle cell (SMC) responses by combining bilayered poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogels with a pulsatile flow bioreactor. Each construct was composed of an outer PEGDA layer containing SMC and an inner PEGDA layer, either with or without EC. After an initial 3 days of static culture, EC + and EC- constructs were each further divided into two subgroups, half of which received mechanical conditioning mimetic of late gestation (mean pressures of ∼50a mmHg and peak-to-trough pressure differentials of ∼20a mmHg at ∼140-180 beats/min) and half of which were cultured statically. After 18 additional days of culture, the SMC-containing layer of each construct was harvested, and western blots and quantitative histology were conducted to compare collagen type I, collagen type III, and elastin levels among treatment groups. SMC differentiation was evaluated by focusing on SMC marker calponin h1 and direct regulators of its gene expression-the transcription factor serum response factor (SRF) and two of its binding partners, myocardin and Elk-1. Combined EC and pulsatile flow conditioning increased elastin production, but decreased collagen type I deposition. Further, combined EC presence and mechanical stimulation increased SRF levels and the ratio of myocardin to active, phosphorylated Elk-1. This modulation of SRF and its binding partners appeared to result in a net increase in SMC differentiation, as evidenced by an associated increase in calponin h1 levels.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering