Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Marsha W. Rolle, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Kristen Billiar, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Glenn Gaudette, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Suzanne Scarlata, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Eben Alsberg, Committee Member




Tissue engineered blood vessels (TEBVs) have great potential as tools for disease modeling and drug screening. However, existing methods for fabricating TEBVs create homogenous tissue tubes, which may not be conducive to modeling focal vascular diseases such as intimal hyperplasia or aneurysm. In contrast, our lab has a unique modular system for fabricating TEBVs. Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) are seeded into an annular agarose mold, where they aggregate into vascular tissue rings, which can be stacked and fused into small diameter TEBVs. Our goal is to create a platform technology that may be used for fabricating focal vascular disease models, such as intimal hyperplasia. Because tubes are fabricated from individual ring units, each ring can potentially be customized, enabling the creation of focal changes or regions of disease along the tube length. In these studies, we first demonstrated our ability to modulate cell phenotype within individual SMC ring units using incorporated growth factor-loaded degradable gelatin microspheres. Next, we evaluated fusion of ring subunits to form composite tissue tubes, and demonstrated that cells retain their spatial positioning within individual rings during fusion. By incorporating electrospun polycaprolactone cannulation cuffs at each end, tubes were mounted on bioreactors after only 7 days of fusion to impart luminal medium flow for 7 days at a physiological shear stress of 12 dyne/cm2. We then created focal heterogeneities along the tube length by fusing microsphere-containing rings in the central region of the tube between rings without microspheres. In the future, microspheres may be used to deliver growth factors to this localized region of microsphere incorporation and induce disease phenotypes. Due to the challenges of working with primary human SMCs, we next evaluated human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) as an alternative cell source to generate vascular SMCs. We evaluated the effects of microsphere-mediated platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), and transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGF-β1) delivery on ring thickness, proliferation, and contractile protein expression over a 14 day period. Finally, we created a structurally distinct region of smooth muscle within tissue tubes by fusing human aortic SMCs in a central region between hMSC rings. In summary, we developed a platform technology for creating modular tubular tissues that may be further developed into an in vitro intimal hyperplasia model. It may also be modified to model other focal vascular diseases, such as aneurysm, or to create other types of multi-tissue tubular structures, such as trachea.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





bioreactor, disease modeling, microsphere, smooth muscle, tissue engineered blood vessel