Background: Tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs) have the potential to advance the surgical management of infants and children requiring congenital heart surgery by creating functional vascular conduits with growth capacity.
Methods: Herein, we used an integrative computational-experimental approach to elucidate the natural history of neovessel formation in a large animal preclinical model; combining an in vitro accelerated degradation study with mechanical testing, large animal implantation studies with in vivo imaging and histology, and data-informed computational growth and remodeling models.
Results: Our findings demonstrate that the structural integrity of the polymeric scaffold is lost over the first 26 weeks in vivo, while polymeric fragments persist for up to 52 weeks. Our models predict that early neotissue accumulation is driven primarily by inflammatory processes in response to the implanted polymeric scaffold, but that turnover becomes progressively mechano-mediated as the scaffold degrades. Using a lamb model, we confirm that early neotissue formation results primarily from the foreign body reaction induced by the scaffold, resulting in an early period of dynamic remodeling characterized by transient TEVG narrowing. As the scaffold degrades, mechano-mediated neotissue remodeling becomes dominant around 26 weeks. After the scaffold degrades completely, the resulting neovessel undergoes growth and remodeling that mimicks native vessel behavior, including biological growth capacity, further supported by fluid-structure interaction simulations providing detailed hemodynamic and wall stress information.
Conclusions: These findings provide insights into TEVG remodeling, and have important implications for clinical use and future development of TEVGs for children with congenital heart disease.
Keywords: Biomaterials; Cardiovascular biology; Tissues.
© The Author(s) 2022.