The application of native extracellular matrix (ECM) components is a promising approach for biomaterial design. Here, we investigated artificial ECM (aECM) consisting of collagen I (coll) and the glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) hyaluronan (HA) or chondroitin sulfate (CS). Additionally, GAGs were chemically modified by the introduction of sulfate groups to obtain low-sulfated and high-sulfated GAG derivatives. Sulfate groups are expected to bind and concentrate growth factors and improve their bioactivity. In this study we analyzed the effect of aECM on initial adhesion, proliferation, ECM synthesis and differentiation of human dermal fibroblasts (dFb) within 8-48 h. We show that initial adhesion and cell proliferation of dFb progressively increased in a sulfate dependent manner. In contrast, synthesis of ECM components coll and HA was decreased on high-sulfated aECM coll/HA3.0 and coll/CS3.1. Furthermore, the matrix metallo-proteinase-1 (MMP-1) was down-regulated on coll/HA3.0 and coll/CS3.1 on mRNA and protein level. The fibroblast differentiation marker α-smooth muscle actin (αSMA) is not affected by aECM on mRNA level. Artificial ECM consisting of coll and high-sulfated GAGs proves to be a suitable biomaterial for dFb adhesion and proliferation that induces a "proliferative phenotype" of dFb found in the early stages of cutaneous wound healing.
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