Hongxian Su, Qingtao Li, Dingguo Li
Jul 5, 2022
Mimicking complex structures of natural blood vessels and constructing vascular networks in tissue engineering scaffolds are still challenging now. Herein we demonstrate a new and versatile strategy to fabricate free-standing multi-furcated vessels and complicated vascular networks in heterogeneous porous scaffolds by integrating stimuli-responsive hydrogels and 3D printing technology. Through the sol-gel transition of temperature-responsive gelatin and conversion between two physical crosslinking networks of pH-responsive chitosan (i.e., electrostatic network between protonated chitosan and sulfate ion, crystalline network of neutral chitosan), physiologically-stable gelatin/chitosan hydrogel tubes can be constructed. While stimuli-responsive hydrogels confer the formation mechanism of the hydrogel tube, 3D printing confers the feasibility to create a multi-furcated structure and interconnected network in various heterogeneous porous scaffolds. As a consequence, biomimetic multi-furcated vessels (MFVs) and heterogeneous porous scaffolds containing multi-furcated vessels (HPS-MFVs) can be constructed precisely. Our data further confirm that the artificial blood vessel (gelatin/chitosan hydrogel tube) shows good physiological stability, mechanical strength, semi-permeability, hemocompatibility, cytocompatibility and low in vivo inflammatory response. Co-culture of hepatocyte (L02 cells) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) in HPS-MFVs indicates the successful construction of a liver model. We believe that our method offers a simple and easy-going way to achieve robust fabrication of free-standing multi-furcated blood vessels and prevascularization of porous scaffolds for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.