Blended electrospinning with human liver extracellular matrix for engineering new hepatic microenvironments

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Tissue engineering of a transplantable liver could provide an alternative to donor livers for transplant, solving the problem of escalating donor shortages. One of the challenges for tissue engineers is the extracellular matrix (ECM); a finely controlled in vivo niche which supports hepatocytes. Polymers and decellularized tissue scaffolds each provide some of the necessary biological cues for hepatocytes, however, neither alone has proved sufficient. Enhancing microenvironments using bioactive molecules allows researchers to create more appropriate niches for hepatocytes. We combined decellularized human liver tissue with electrospun polymers to produce a niche for hepatocytes and compared the human liver ECM to its individual components; Collagen I, Laminin-521 and Fibronectin. The resulting scaffolds were validated using THLE-3 hepatocytes. Immunohistochemistry confirmed retention of proteins in the scaffolds. Mechanical testing demonstrated significant increases in the Young’s Modulus of the decellularized ECM scaffold; providing significantly stiffer environments for hepatocytes. Each scaffold maintained hepatocyte growth, albumin production and influenced expression of key hepatic genes, with the decellularized ECM scaffolds exerting an influence which is not recapitulated by individual ECM components. Blended protein:polymer scaffolds provide a viable, translatable niche for hepatocytes and offers a solution to current obstacles in disease modelling and liver tissue engineering.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6293
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2019


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