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1.  A Three-Dimensional Engineered Artery Model for In Vitro Atherosclerosis Research 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79821.
The pathogenesis of atherosclerosis involves dysfunctions of vascular endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells as well as blood borne inflammatory cells such as monocyte-derived macrophages. In vitro experiments towards a better understanding of these dysfunctions are typically performed in two-dimensional cell culture systems. However, these models lack both the three-dimensional structure and the physiological pulsatile flow conditions of native arteries. We here describe the development and initial characterization of a tissue engineered artery equivalent, which is composed of human primary endothelial and smooth muscle cells and is exposed to flow in vitro. Histological analyses showed formation of a dense tissue composed of a tight monolayer of endothelial cells supported by a basement membrane and multiple smooth muscle cell layers. Both low (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL) perfused through the artery equivalent were recovered both within endothelial cells and in the sub-endothelial intima. After activation of the endothelium with either tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) or LDL, monocytes circulated through the model were found to adhere to the activated endothelium and to transmigrate into the intima. In conclusion, the described tissue engineered human artery equivalent model represents a significant step towards a relevant in vitro platform for the systematic assessment of pathogenic processes in atherosclerosis independently of any systemic factors.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079821
PMCID: PMC3828234  PMID: 24244566
2.  Intramyocardial Transplantation and Tracking of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells in a Novel Intra-Uterine Pre-Immune Fetal Sheep Myocardial Infarction Model: A Proof of Concept Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57759.
Although stem-cell therapies have been suggested for cardiac-regeneration after myocardial-infarction (MI), key-questions regarding the in-vivo cell-fate remain unknown. While most available animal-models require immunosuppressive-therapy when applying human cells, the fetal-sheep being pre-immune until day 75 of gestation has been proposed for the in-vivo tracking of human cells after intra-peritoneal transplantation. We introduce a novel intra-uterine myocardial-infarction model to track human mesenchymal stem cells after direct intra-myocardial transplantation into the pre-immune fetal-sheep. Thirteen fetal-sheep (gestation age: 70–75 days) were included. Ten animals either received an intra-uterine induction of MI only (n = 4) or MI+intra-myocardial injection (IMI;n = 6) using micron-sized, iron-oxide (MPIO) labeled human mesenchymal stem cells either derived from the adipose-tissue (ATMSCs;n = 3) or the bone-marrow (BMMSCs;n = 3). Three animals received an intra-peritoneal injection (IPI;n = 3; ATMSCs;n = 2/BMMSCs;n = 1). All procedures were performed successfully and follow-up was 7–9 days. To assess human cell-fate, multimodal cell-tracking was performed via MRI and/or Micro-CT, Flow-Cytometry, PCR and immunohistochemistry. After IMI, MRI displayed an estimated amount of 1×105–5×105 human cells within ventricular-wall corresponding to the injection-sites which was further confirmed on Micro-CT. PCR and IHC verified intra-myocardial presence via detection of human-specific β-2-microglobulin, MHC-1, ALU-Sequence and anti-FITC targeting the fluorochrome-labeled part of the MPIOs. The cells appeared viable, integrated and were found in clusters or in the interstitial-spaces. Flow-Cytometry confirmed intra-myocardial presence, and showed further distribution within the spleen, lungs, kidneys and brain. Following IPI, MRI indicated the cells within the intra-peritoneal-cavity involving the liver and kidneys. Flow-Cytometry detected the cells within spleen, lungs, kidneys, thymus, bone-marrow and intra-peritoneal lavage, but not within the heart. For the first time we demonstrate the feasibility of intra-uterine, intra-myocardial stem-cell transplantation into the pre-immune fetal-sheep after MI. Utilizing cell-tracking strategies comprising advanced imaging-technologies and in-vitro tracking-tools, this novel model may serve as a unique platform to assess human cell-fate after intra-myocardial transplantation without the necessity of immunosuppressive-therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057759
PMCID: PMC3606388  PMID: 23533575
3.  Tissue-engineered vascular graft remodeling in a growing lamb model: expression of matrix metalloproteinases 
OBJECTIVES
We have previously demonstrated the functionality and growth of autologous, living, tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs) in long-term animal studies. These grafts showed substantial in vivo tissue remodeling and approximation to native arterial wall characteristics. Based on this, in vitro and in vivo matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity of TEVGs is investigated as a key marker of matrix remodeling.
METHODS
TEVGs fabricated from biodegradable scaffolds (polyglycolic-acid/poly-4-hydroxybutyrate, PGA/P4HB) seeded with autologous vascular cells were cultured in static and dynamic in vitro conditions. Thereafter, TEVGs were implanted as pulmonary artery replacements in lambs and followed up for 2 years. Gelatin gel zymography to detect MMP-2 and -9 was performed and collagen content quantified (n = 5). Latent (pro) and active MMP-2 and -9 were detected.
RESULTS
Comparable levels of active MMP-9 and pro-MMP-2 were detected in static and dynamic culture. Higher levels of active MMP-2 were detected in dynamic cultures. Expression of MMP-2 and -9 was minimal in native grafts but was increased in implanted TEVG. Pro-MMP-9 was expressed 20 weeks post implantation and persisted up to 80 weeks post implantation. Collagen content in vitro was increased in dynamically conditioned TEVG as compared with static constructs and was increased in vivo compared with the corresponding native pulmonary artery.
CONCLUSIONS
MMPs are up-regulated in vitro by dynamic culture conditions and could contribute to increased matrix remodeling, native analogous tissue formation and functional growth of TEVGs in vivo. Monitoring of MMP activity, for example, by molecular imaging techniques, may enable the non-invasive assessment of functional tissue quality in future clinical tissue-engineering applications.
doi:10.1016/j.ejcts.2011.02.077
PMCID: PMC3241092  PMID: 21530291
Matrix metalloproteinases; Tissue engineering; Vascular graft; Autologous; Growth; Cells
4.  Fibroblast activation protein is induced by inflammation and degrades type I collagen in thin-cap fibroatheromata 
European Heart Journal  2011;32(21):2713-2722.
Aims
Collagen degradation in atherosclerotic plaques with thin fibrous caps renders them more prone to rupture. Fibroblast activation protein (FAP) plays a role in arthritis and tumour formation through its collagenase activity. However, the significance of FAP in thin-cap human fibroatheromata remains unknown.
Methods and results
We detected enhanced FAP expression in type IV–V human aortic atheromata (n = 12), compared with type II–III lesions (n = 9; P < 0.01) and healthy aortae (n = 8; P < 0.01) by immunostaining and western blot analyses. Fibroblast activation protein was also increased in thin-cap (<65 µm) vs. thick-cap (≥65 µm) human coronary fibroatheromata (n = 12; P < 0.01). Fibroblast activation protein was expressed by human aortic smooth muscle cells (HASMC) as shown by colocalization on immunofluorescent aortic plaque stainings (n = 10; P < 0.01) and by flow cytometry in cell culture. Although macrophages did not express FAP, macrophage burden in human aortic plaques correlated with FAP expression (n = 12; R2= 0.763; P < 0.05). Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays showed a time- and dose-dependent up-regulation of FAP in response to human tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) in HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01). Moreover, supernatants from peripheral blood-derived macrophages induced FAP expression in cultured HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01), an effect abolished by blocking TNFα (n = 6; P < 0.01). Fibroblast activation protein associated with collagen-poor regions in human coronary fibrous caps and digested type I collagen and gelatin in vitro (n = 6; P < 0.01). Zymography revealed that FAP-mediated collagenase activity was neutralized by an antibody directed against the FAP catalytic domain both in HASMC (n = 6; P < 0.01) and in fibrous caps of atherosclerotic plaques (n = 10; P < 0.01).
Conclusion
Fibroblast activation protein expression in HASMC is induced by macrophage-derived TNFα. Fibroblast activation protein associates with thin-cap human coronary fibroatheromata and contributes to type I collagen breakdown in fibrous caps.
doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehq519
PMCID: PMC3205479  PMID: 21292680
Atherosclerosis; Antibodies; Collagen; Inflammation; Smooth muscle cells
5.  EH-myomesin splice isoform is a novel marker for dilated cardiomyopathy 
Basic Research in Cardiology  2010;106(2):233-247.
The M-band is the prominent cytoskeletal structure that cross-links the myosin and titin filaments in the middle of the sarcomere. To investigate M-band alterations in heart disease, we analyzed the expression of its main components, proteins of the myomesin family, in mouse and human cardiomyopathy. Cardiac function was assessed by echocardiography and compared to the expression pattern of myomesins evaluated with RT-PCR, Western blot, and immunofluorescent analysis. Disease progression in transgenic mouse models for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) was accompanied by specific M-band alterations. The dominant splice isoform in the embryonic heart, EH-myomesin, was strongly up-regulated in the failing heart and correlated with a decrease in cardiac function (R = −0.86). In addition, we have analyzed the expressions of myomesins in human myocardial biopsies (N = 40) obtained from DCM patients, DCM patients supported by a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) patients and controls. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed that the EH-myomesin isoform was up-regulated 41-fold (P < 0.001) in the DCM patients compared to control patients. In DCM hearts supported by a LVAD and HCM hearts, the EH-myomesin expression was comparable to controls. Immunofluorescent analyses indicate that EH-myomesin was enhanced in a cell-specific manner, leading to a higher heterogeneity of the myocytes’ cytoskeleton through the myocardial wall. We suggest that the up-regulation of EH-myomesin denotes an adaptive remodeling of the sarcomere cytoskeleton in the dilated heart and might serve as a marker for DCM in mouse and human myocardium.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00395-010-0131-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1007/s00395-010-0131-2
PMCID: PMC3032906  PMID: 21069531
Dilated cardiomyopathy; Heart failure; Sarcomere cytoskeleton; M-band; Myomesin

Results 1-5 (5)