The Effect of Matrix Stiffness of Biomimetic Gelatin Nanofibrous Scaffolds on Human Cardiac Pericyte Behaviour

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Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common and deadly congenital anomaly, accounting for up to 7.5% of all infant deaths. Survival in children born with CHD has improved dramatically over the past several decades (this positive trend being counterbalanced by the fact that more patients develop heart failure). Seminal data indicate an alteration of the extracellular matrix occurs with time in these hearts due to diffuse and abundant interstitial fibrosis. This results in an escalation in the stiffness of the local myocardial microenvironment. However, the influence of matrix stiffness in regulating the function of resident human stromal cells has not been reported. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of scaffold stiffness on the antigenic and functional profile of cardiac pericytes (CPs) isolated from patients with CHD. To this end, we have first manufactured gelatin nanofibrous scaffolds with varying degrees of stiffness using an in situ cross-linking electrospinning technique in a pure water solvent system. We assessed Young’s modulus and performed a comprehensive physicochemical characterization of the scaffolds employing scanning electron microscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. We next evaluated the changes induced by a different scaffold stiffness on CP morphology, antigenic profile, viability, proliferation, angiocrine activity, and induced differentiation. Results indicate that soft matrixes with a fiber diameter of ∼400 nm increase CP proliferation, secretion of angiopoietin 2, and F-actin stress fiber formation, without affecting the antigenic profile, viability, or differentiation. These data indicate for the first time that human CPs can be functionally influenced by slight changes in matrix stiffness. The study elucidates the importance of mechanical/morphological cues in modulating the behavior of stromal cells isolated from patients with CHD.
Original languageEnglish
JournalACS Applied Bio Materials
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2019


  • in situ cross-linking electrospinning
  • matrix stiffness
  • cardiac pericytes
  • stem cells
  • cardiac differentiation


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