Microchannels are an architectural cue that promotes integration and vascularization of silk biomaterials in vivo

Fengying Tang, Xue D. Manz, Andre Bongers, Ross A. Odell, Habib Joukhdar, John M. Whitelock, Megan S. Lord, Jelena Rnjak-Kovacina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Functional integration of implanted biomaterials and bioengineered tissues in vivo requires effective and timely vascular ingrowth. While many vascularization strategies rely on delivery of angiogenic growth factors or endothelial cells to promote vascular ingrowth, the effect of physical and architectural features of biomaterials on the vascularization process is less well understood. Microchannels are a simple, accessible architectural feature frequently engineered into 3D biomaterials to promote mass transfer. In this study, the effect of microchannels on the integration and vascularization of 3D porous silk scaffolds was explored over a 14 week period. An array of 508 μm diameter microchannels spanning the length of critically sized, porous silk scaffolds significantly improved tissue ingrowth into the constructs. At week 6, all silk scaffolds (n = 8) with microchannels showed complete tissue infiltration throughout the construct, while only one of eight (12.5%) did so in the absence of microchannels. The presence of microchannels improved silk scaffold vascularization with significantly more vessels per unit area in the presence of microchannels. The vessel size distribution was similar in both scaffold types, but a shift in distribution toward smaller vessels was observed in the presence of microchannels. The blood vessels in silk scaffolds were perfused, functional and connected to the animal's cardiovascular system, as demonstrated by the presence of red blood cells in the vessel lumens, and effective delivery of a contrast agent the vessels inside the scaffold. This study demonstrates the utility of microchannels as a simple architectural feature that significantly improves vascularization and integration of implanted biomaterials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1476-1486
Number of pages11
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2020

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