Tubular hydrogels of circumferentially aligned nanofibers to encapsulate and orient vascular cells

Mark T. McClendon, Samuel I. Stupp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


There is a great clinical need for tissue engineered blood vessels that could be used to replace or bypass damaged arteries. The success of such grafts will depend strongly on their ability to mimic the cellular and matrix organization found in native arteries, but currently available cell scaffolds such as electrospun fibers or hydrogels lack the ability to simultaneously encapsulate and align cells. Our laboratory has recently developed liquid crystalline solutions of peptide amphiphile nanofibers that form aligned domains at exceedingly low concentrations (<1wt%), and can be trapped as gels with macroscopic alignment using low shear rates and ionic crosslinking. We describe here the use of these systems to fabricate tubes with macroscopic circumferential alignment and demonstrate their potential as arterial cell scaffolds. The nanofibers in these tubes were circumferentially aligned by applying small amounts of shear in a custom built flow chamber prior to gelation. Small angle X-ray scattering confirmed that the direction of nanofiber alignment was the same as the direction of shear flow. We also show the encapsulation of smooth muscle cells during the fabrication process without compromising cell viability. After two days in culture the encapsulated cells oriented their long axis in the direction of nanofiber alignment thus mimicking the circumferential alignment seen in native arteries. Cell density roughly doubled after 12 days demonstrating the scaffold's ability to facilitate necessary graft maturation. Since these nanofiber gels are composed of >99% water by weight, the cells have abundant room for proliferation and remodeling. In contrast to previously reported arterial cell scaffolds, this new material can encapsulate cells and direct cellular organization without the requirement of external stimuli or gel compaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5713-5722
Number of pages10
Issue number23
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Arterial tissue engineering
  • Biomimetic material
  • Circumferential alignment
  • Peptide amphiphile
  • Self-assembly
  • Smooth muscle cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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