We have recently reported that glycation can be exploited to increase the circumferential tensile stiffness and ultimate tensile strength of media-equivalents (MEs) and increase their resistance to collagenolytic degradation, all without loss of cell viability (Girton et al., 1999). The glycated MEs were fabricated by entrapping high passage adult rat aorta SMCs in collagen gel made from pepsin-digested bovine dermal collagen, and incubated for up to 10 weeks in complete medium with 30 mM ribose added. We report here on experiments showing that ME compaction due to traction exerted by the SMCs with consequent alignment of collagen fibrils was necessary to realize the glycationmediated stiffening and strengthening, but that synthesis of extracellular matrix constituents by these cells likely contributed little, even when 50 mg/ml ascorbate was added to the medium. These glycated MEs exhibited a compliance similar to arteries, but possessed less tensile strength and much less burst strength. MEs fabricated with low rather than high passage adult rat aorta SMCs possessed almost ten times greater tensile strength, suggesting that alternative SMCs sources and biopolymer gels may yield sufficient strength by compositional remodeling prior to implantation in addition to the structural remodeling (i.e., circumferential alignment) already obtained.
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