Cardiovascular tissue engineering (CVTE) aims to create living tissues, with the ability to grow and remodel, as replacements for diseased blood vessels and heart valves. Despite promising results, the (long-term) functionality of these engineered tissues still needs improvement to reach broad clinical application. The functionality of native tissues is ensured by their specific mechanical properties directly arising from tissue organization. We therefore hypothesize that establishing a native-like tissue organization is vital to overcome the limitations of current CVTE approaches. To achieve this aim, a better understanding of the growth and remodeling (G&R) mechanisms of cardiovascular tissues is necessary. Cells are the main mediators of tissue G&R, and their behavior is strongly influenced by both mechanical stimuli and cell-cell signaling. An increasing number of signaling pathways has also been identified as mechanosensitive. As such, they may have a key underlying role in regulating the G&R of tissues in response to mechanical stimuli. A more detailed understanding of mechano-regulated cell-cell signaling may thus be crucial to advance CVTE, as it could inspire new methods to control tissue G&R and improve the organization and functionality of engineered tissues, thereby accelerating clinical translation. In this review, we discuss the organization and biomechanics of native cardiovascular tissues; recent CVTE studies emphasizing the obtained engineered tissue organization; and the interplay between mechanical stimuli, cell behavior, and cell-cell signaling. In addition, we review past contributions of computational models in understanding and predicting mechano-regulated tissue G&R and cell-cell signaling to highlight their potential role in future CVTE strategies.
Full Access Link: Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology