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Biodegradable synthetic scaffolds are being evaluated by many groups for the application of vascular tissue engineering. In addition to the choice of the material and the structure of the scaffold, tailoring the surface properties can have an important effect on promoting adequate tissue regeneration. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of an increased hydrophilicity of a polycaprolactone vascular graft by treatment with a cold air plasma. 

To this end, treated and untreated scaffolds were characterized, evaluated in vitro with smooth muscle cells, and implanted in vivo in the rat model for 3 weeks, both in the subcutaneous location and as an aortic replacement. The plasma treatment significantly increased the hydrophilicity of the scaffold, with complete wetting after a treatment of 60 sec, but did not change fiber morphology or mechanical properties. Smooth muscle cells cultured on plasma treated patches adopt a spread out morphology compared to a small, rounded morphology on untreated patches. 

Subcutaneous implantation revealed a low foreign body reaction for both types of scaffolds and a more extended and dense cellular infiltrate in the plasma treated scaffolds. In the vascular position, the plasma treatment induced a better cellularization of the graft wall, while it did not affect endothelialization rate or intimal hyperplasia. Plasma treatment is therefore an accessible tool to easily increase the biocompatibility of a scaffold and accelerate tissue regeneration without compromising mechanical strength, which are valuable advantages for vascular tissue engineering.

This article originally appeared in European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics 85, 2013, Pages 78–86.

Click here to find out more about Plasma cleaning and surface activation.


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