When the researchers changed the surface texture of implant materials to better match the natural texture of the endothelium, they found that endothelial cells quickly colonized the foreign surfaces, effectively camouflaging them and preventing smooth muscle cells from overgrowing the implants. Once the endothelial cells form a single, solid layer, they stop piling on and switch to producing the proteins collagen and elastin.
In one experiment, published with Purdue University graduate student Saba Choudhary in the journal Tissue Engineering, Webster and Haberstroh pressed together titanium particles that were less than 1 micron in size to create titanium with nanoscale surface texture. When they compared samples of the nanostructured material to conventional titanium in mixed cell culture, they found that the nanoscale surface features encouraged endothelial cells to colonize the material and spread much faster than smooth muscle cells. Where endothelial cells established themselves, they formed a single thin layer that inhibited overgrowth of the smooth muscle cells that tends to narrow stented arteries.
In another experiment, published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research with Purdue graduate student Derick Miller, the team molded pieces of PLGA, a biodegradable polymer often used for blood vessel grafts, so they came out completely covered with bumps that were 100, 200 or 500 nanometers in diameter. The surface with 200-nanometer features strongly favored the adsorption and spreading of fibronectin, a protein that helps endothelial cells quickly coat the graft.
Webster and Haberstroh's next step will be to test s