• tissue engineering;
  • endothelial cells;
  • 3D co-culture;
  • myofibroblasts;
  • extracellular matrix;
  • vascular constructs


Tissue engineering of small diameter (<5 mm) blood vessels is a promising approach to develop viable alternatives for autologous vascular grafts. Development of a functional, adherent, shear resisting endothelial cell (EC) layer is one of the major issues limiting the successful application of these tissue engineered grafts. The goal of the present study was to create a confluent EC layer on a rectangular 3D cardiovascular construct using human venous cells and to determine the influence of this layer on the extracellular matrix composition and mechanical properties of the constructs. Rectangular cardiovascular constructs were created by seeding myofibroblasts (MFs) on poly(glycolic acid) poly-4-hydroxybutyrate scaffolds using fibrin gel. After 3 or 4 weeks, ECs were seeded and co-cultured using EGM-2 medium for 2 or 1 week, respectively. A confluent EC layer could be created and maintained for up to 2 weeks. The EGM-2 medium lowered the collagen production by MFs, resulting in weaker constructs, especially in the 2 week cultured constructs. Co-culturing with ECs slightly reduced the collagen content, but had no additional affect on the mechanical performance. A confluent endothelial layer was created on 3D human cardiovascular constructs. The layer was co-cultured for 1 and 2 weeks. Although, the collagen production of the MFs was slightly lowered, co-culturing ECs for 1 week results in constructs with good mechanical properties and a confluent EC layer. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.