Hyaluronan promotes the regeneration of vascular smooth muscle with potent contractile function in rapidly biodegradable vascular grafts

Kang Qin, Fei Wang, Russell M.L. Simpson, Xueni Zheng, He Wang, Yanhua Hu, Zhixian Gao, Qingbo Xu, Qiang Zhao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


The regeneration of smooth muscle with physiological functions has been a key challenge in vascular tissue engineering. Hyaluronan (HA), as a major component of the extracellular matrix, plays a vital role in regulating tissue injury and repair. In this study, a biomimetic vascular graft was prepared by co-electrospinning of synthetic degradable polymers and native ECM components including collagen type-I as well as low and high molecular weight HA (LMW HA and HMW HA). Upon implantation in the rat abdominal aorta, the grafts exhibited sustained HA release that effectively enhanced the regeneration of vascular smooth muscle. Besides, LMW HA loaded vascular grafts demonstrated rapid endothelialization compared to the other groups. More importantly, HA-loaded poly(L-lactide-co-caprolactone) grafts demonstrated an optimal vascular media layer accompanied by well-organized elastin fibers after long-term implantation (6 months), and they maintained potent physiological function up to 1/3 that of the native artery. In contrast, inadequate smooth muscle regeneration was observed in poly(ε-caprolactone) grafts due to slow degradation restricting the regeneration. The mechanism was further investigated and explained by the HA-induced migration of smooth muscle cell (SMC) via CD44-mediated signaling. Besides, low molecular weight HA can promote the migration of vascular progenitor cells that further differentiate into SMCs. These results highlight the importance of HA in the regeneration of functional vascular smooth muscle, and provide a new insight into the fabrication of tissue engineering vascular grafts (TEVGs) via combining rapidly degradable polymers and bioactive ECM components that hold great translational potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120226
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Contractile function
  • Electrospinning
  • Hyaluronan (HA)
  • Rapidly degradable polymers
  • Smooth muscle regeneration
  • Tissue-engineered vascular grafts


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