Maintenance of polarisation of epithelial cells and preservation of their specialized phenotype are great challenges for bioengineering of epithelial tissues. Mimicking the basement membrane and underlying extracellular matrix (ECM) with respect to its hierarchical fiber-like morphology and display of bioactive signals is prerequisite for optimal epithelial cell function in vitro. We report here on a bottom-up approach based on hydrogen-bonded supramolecular polymers and ECM-peptides to make an electro-spun, bioactive supramolecular mesh which can be applied as synthetic basement membrane. The supramolecular polymers used, self-assembled into nano-meter scale fibers, while at micro-meter scale fibers were formed by electro-spinning. We introduced bioactivity into these nano-fibers by intercalation of different ECM-peptides designed for stable binding. Living kidney membranes were shown to be bioengineered through culture of primary human renal tubular epithelial cells on these bioactive meshes. Even after a long-term culturing period of 19 days, we found that the cells on bioactive membranes formed tight monolayers, while cells on non-active membranes lost their monolayer integrity. Furthermore, the bioactive membranes helped to support and maintain renal epithelial phenotype and function. Thus, incorporation of ECM-peptides into electro-spun meshes via a hierarchical, supramolecular method is a promising approach to engineer bioactive synthetic membranes with an unprecedented structure. This approach may in future be applied to produce living bioactive membranes for a bio-artificial kidney.
|Publication status||Published - 2011|