Heparinized collagen scaffolds with and without growth factors for the repair of diaphragmatic hernia: Construction and in vivo evaluation

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A regenerative medicine approach to restore the morphology and function of the diaphragm in congenital diaphragmatic hernia is especially challenging because of the position and flat nature of this organ, allowing cell ingrowth primarily from the perimeter. Use of porous collagen scaffolds for the closure of surgically created diaphragmatic defects in rats has been shown feasible, but better ingrowth of cells, specifically blood vessels and muscle cells, is warranted. To stimulate this process, heparin, a glycosaminoglycan involved in growth factor binding, was covalently bound to porous collagenous scaffolds (14%), with or without vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF; 0.4 μg/mg scaffold), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF; 0.5 μg/mg scaffold) or a combination of VEGF + HGF (0.2 + 0.5 μg/mg scaffold). All components were located primarily at the outside of scaffolds. Scaffolds were implanted in the diaphragm of rats and evaluated after 2 and 12 weeks. No herniations or eventrations were observed, and in several cases, growth factor-substituted scaffolds showed macroscopically visible blood vessels at the lung site. The addition of heparin led to an accelerated ingrowth of blood vessels at 2 weeks. In all scaffold types, giant cells and immune cells were present primarily at the liver side of the scaffold, and immune cells and individual macrophages at the lung side; these cell types decreased in number from week 2 to week 12. The addition of growth factors did not influence cellular response to the scaffolds, indicating that further optimization with respect to dosage and release profile is needed.

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