Tissue-engineered pediatric patches: bioprinting structured collagen to mimic the mechanical properties of native blood vessels
McKee, Christine Casserly
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Congenital heart defects are the most common category of birth defects, mostly affecting the blood vessels, walls, or valves of the heart. For example, pulmonary atresia occurs when the connection between the right ventricle to the main pulmonary artery is not fully formed. A heart defect such as pulmonary atresia may need surgery to close up any malformations in walls and blood vessels, and unfortunately, because the patients are infants, they will need to undergo several surgeries in their lifetime to accommodate a heart patch that will fit the size of their hearts at each stage of their life. A better solution would be to create a biomimetic vascular patch that could be anatomically accepted by the patient’s body as its own, allowing it to grow with the patient without the residue of scar tissue. Instead of propagating scar tissue in the area, it would propagate healthy cells that would integrate into the surrounding tissue. For this to become a reality, one strategy for a biomimetic vascular patch would be to build it like a blood vessel in layers, beginning with the tunica adventitia. The goal of this thesis is to engineer and design the foundation for a biomimetic vascular patch with a crimped, collagen-integrated scaffold, focusing on optimizing the mechanical properties of the hybrid structure. The crimped structure, using sine waves generated from Python code and fabricated with bioprinting technology, mimics the natural formation of collagen fibers in native blood vessels. Additionally, testing the scaffolds on the Instron allows for characterization of the mechanical behaviors of an optimal and repeatable foundation for a tissue-engineered tunica adventitia.