Several urological structures, such as the male urethra, have a tubular organization consisting of different layers. However, in severe urethral disease, urologists are limited to replacing solely the epithelial layer. In case of severe hypospadias and urethral stricture disease, the underlying supporting structure (the corpus spongiosum) is either absent or fibrotic, causing suboptimal vascularization and therefore increasing the risk of graft failure. Recapitulating the multilayered architecture of the urethra, including supporting structure with tissue engineering, might minimize urethral graft failure. However, current tissue engineering applications for complex multilayered tubular constructs are limited. We describe a gel casting method to tissue engineer multilayered tubular constructs based on fiber-reinforced cell-laden hydrogels. For this, a multichambered polydimethylsiloxane mold was casted with fiber-reinforced hydrogels containing smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and a coculture of endothelial cells and pericytes. The cell-loaded hydrogels were rolled, with the fiber mesh as guidance, into a tubular construct. In the lumen, urothelial cells were seeded and survived for 2 weeks. In the tubular construct, the cells showed good viability and functionality: endothelial cells formed capillary-like structures supported by pericytes and SMCs expressed elastin. With a graft produced by this technique, supported with subepithelial vascularization, urethral reconstructive surgery can be improved. This approach toward tissue engineering of multilayered tubular structures can also be applied to other multilayered tubular structures found in the human body. Impact Statement Recapitulating the multilayered architecture of tubular structures found in the human body might minimize graft failure. Current tissue engineering applications for complex multilayered tubular constructs are limited. Here we describe a gel casting approach based on fiber-reinforced cell-laden hydrogels. A multichambered polydimethylsiloxane mold was casted with cell-loaded, fiber-reinforced hydrogels, with the fiber mesh as guidance, into a tubular construct. A graft produced by this technique can improve reconstructive surgery by providing subepithelial vascularization and thereby can reduce graft failure.
Full Access Link: Tissue Engineering - Part C: Methods