Current clinical management of vocal fold (VF) scarring produces inconsistent and often suboptimal results. Researchers are investigating a number of alternative treatments for VF lamina propria (LP) scarring, including designer implant materials for functional LP regeneration. In the present study, we investigate the effects of the initial scaffold elastic modulus and mesh size on encapsulated VF fibroblast (VFF) extracellular matrix (ECM) production toward rational scaffold design. Poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogels were selected for this study since their material properties, including mechanical properties, mesh size, degradation rate and bioactivity, can be tightly controlled and systematically modified. Porcine VFF were encapsulated in four PEGDA hydrogels with degradation half lives of ∼25 days, but with initial elastic compressive moduli and mesh sizes ranging from ∼30 to 100 kPa and from ∼9 to 27 nm, respectively. After 30 days of static culture, VFF ECM production and phenotype in each formulation was assessed biochemically and histologically. Sulfated glycosaminoglycan synthesis increased in similar degree with both increasing initial modulus and decreasing initial mesh size. In contrast, elastin production decreased with increasing initial modulus but increased with decreasing initial mesh size. Both collagen deposition and the induction of a myofibroblastic phenotype depended strongly on initial mesh size but appeared largely unaffected by variations in initial modulus. The present results indicate that scaffold mesh size warrants further investigation as a critical regulator of VFF ECM synthesis. Furthermore, this study validates a systematic and controlled approach for analyzing VFF response to scaffold properties, which should aid in rational scaffold selection/design.
- Vocal fold fibroblast,
- Extracellular matrix production,
- Rational scaffold design,
- Tissue engineering,
- Scaffold material properties