We show that the appropriate combinations of mechanical stimuli and polymeric scaffolds can enhance the mechanical properties of engineered tissues. The mechanical properties of tissues engineered from cells and polymer scaffolds are significantly lower than the native tissues they replace. We hypothesized that application of mechanical stimuli to engineered tissues would alter their mechanical properties. Smooth muscle tissue was engineered on two different polymeric scaffolds and subjected to cyclic mechanical strain. Short-term application of strain increased proliferation of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and expression of collagen and elastin, but only when SMCs were adherent to specific scaffolds. Long-term application of cyclic strain upregulated elastin and collagen gene expression and led to increased organization in tissues. This resulted in more than an order of magnitude increase in the mechanical properties of the tissues.
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This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (BES-9501376) and a fellowship to J.N. from the Organogenesis Training Grant (NIH 5T32 HD07505-02). We are grateful to Elizabeth Smiley for her help with northern blot analysis.
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