Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Glenn R. Gaudette, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Kristen L. Billiar, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Marsha W. Rolle, Advisor




"The stiffness of scaffolds used in surgical ventricular restoration may play an important role in the degree to which they facilitate regeneration of functional cardiac tissue. The stiffness of the scaffold influences the phenotype of cells which are present in it as well as their ability to deform the scaffold. The goal of this study was to evaluate in vitro methods to characterize and alter the stiffness of new scaffold materials. Membrane inflation testing, an in vitro mechanical testing method, was evaluated in this study because of its ease of use and the similar mode of loading which it shares with scaffolds implanted in vivo. The structural stiffness of two scaffold materials, urinary bladder matrix and Dacron, were determined in vivo and using membrane inflation testing. Despite higher tensions and lower area stretch ratios for scaffolds tested using membrane testing, similar changes in structural stiffness between the two materials were found for both methods (5.6 ± 3.3 fold in vivo, 5.0 ± 1.0 in vitro). This finding demonstrated that membrane inflation testing is a useful in vitro method for measuring changes in structural stiffness between scaffold materials with a level of sensitivity similar to that which is measured in vivo. Membrane inflation testing was used to assess the effectiveness of altering scaffold stiffness through exposure to various cell culture conditions. Incubation of a biological membrane in cell culture media resulted in a drastic decrease in the elastic modulus from its initial value (3.55 ± 0.52 MPa) after 2 weeks (1.79 ± 0.30 MPa), 4 weeks (1.04 ± 0.09 MPa), and 10 weeks (0.014 ± 0.01 MPa). When fibroblasts were cultured on the scaffolds for 10 weeks an increase in elastic modulus (0.134 ± 0.05 MPa) over scaffolds incubated in culture media for the same amount of time was observed. The increase in elastic modulus due to the presence of fibroblasts was accompanied by an increase in the percentage of collagen in the samples (54.1 ± 5.1 % without fibroblasts, 83.2 ± 5.1 % with fibroblasts). Contrary to expectation, addition of ascorbic acid to the media to increase production of collagen by the fibroblasts resulted in a decrease in elastic modulus (0.030 ± 0.01 MPa) compared to scaffolds cultured with fibroblasts in standard media and a decrease in the amount of enzymatically degraded collagen (40.8 ± 4.7 % without ascorbic acid, 21.1 ± 3.3 % with ascorbic acid). Regeneration of cardiac tissue after a myocardial infarction is a complicated process which is influenced by a myriad of different factors. Future studies investigating the exact role which substrate stiffness has on regeneration will be essential to the development of improved cardiac scaffolds. Characterization of the stiffness of these scaffolds by membrane inflation and manipulation through exposure to cell culture conditions are powerful approaches to facilitate future studies."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biomedical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





myocardial infarction, Ascorbic Acid, Fibroblasts, Dacron, UBM, Veritas, HDM, membrane inflation, heart