Tissue engineering offers the potential to provide biological substitutes to restore, maintain, or improve tissue function. The construction of tissue engineered heart valves or blood vessels could potentially offer several advantages over currently used therapeutic interventions or devices. Advantages include the limitation or avoidance of anticoagulants, the potential for tissue growth with the patient, and the use of autologous tissues that can repair and remodel using the body's natural mechanisms. Therefore, an important area of research is the development of suitable scaffolds that meet the demands of cardiovascular applications. To engineer cardiovascular tissues, there is a need to develop scaffolds that can closely model the mechanical properties (elasticity) of the native tissue (valve leaflets, blood vessels) and are amenable to implantation. It is hypothesized that polymers based on copolymers of sebacic acid and glycerol (PGSA) could potentially serve as suitable elastomeric scaffolds for cardiovascular applications. It is also hypothesized that a novel optical technique referred to as light scattering spectroscopy can be used to non-invasively monitor the tissue formation and remodeling processes of cells on the scaffold. Sebacic acid and glycerol are non-toxic with the latter offering the potential for cross-links and hydrogen bonding, properties that could potentially confer elasticity to a material. The goal of the research is to evaluate the feasibility of using PGSA as scaffolds to engineer cardiovascular tissues such as heart valves and blood vessels. Towards this goal, the specific aims are to: 1) Synthesize and characterize a biodegradable elastomeric scaffold for potential use in cardiovascular tissue engineering. 2) Investigate whether LSS can asses the micro-architecture/development of intact and cell-seeded elastomeric scaffolds, and 3) Test the biocompatibility and degradation of the elastomeric scaffold in vitro as well as in vivo. The biodegradable elastic polymer developed from this research could potentially provide an inexpensive scaffold for cardiovascular tissue engineering and for other devices such as stents.
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