Collagen-elastin scaffolds may be valuable biomaterials for tissue engineering because they combine tensile strength with elasticity. In this study, the tissue response to and the calcification of these scaffolds were evaluated. In particular, the hypothesis was tested that calcification, a common phenomenon in biomaterials, may be due to microfibrils within the elastic fibre, and that these microfibrils might generate a tissue response. Four scaffolds were subcutaneously implanted, viz. collagen, collagen + pure elastin, collagen+microfibril-containing, and collagen + pulverised elastic ligament (the source for elastin). Explants were evaluated at day 3, 7 and 21. In young Sprague Dawley rats, collagen + ligament calcified substantially, whereas collagen + elastin (with and without microfibrils) calcified less, and collagen did not. Calcification started at elastic fibres. In both Sprague Dawley and Wistar adult rats, however, none of the scaffolds calcified. Mononuclear cell infiltration was prominent in young and adult Sprague Dawley rats. In adult Wistar rats, this infiltration was associated with the presence of microfibrils. Degradation of scaffolds and new matrix formation were related with cellular influx and degree of vascularisation. In conclusion, absence of microfibrils from the elastic fibre does not prevent calcification in young Sprague Dawley rats, but does reduce the tissue response in adult Wistar rats. Cellular response and calcification differs with age and strain and therefore the choice of animal model is of key importance in biomaterial evaluation.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.