Electrospun Decellularized Lung Matrix Scaffold for Airway Smooth Muscle Culture

Chronic respiratory disease affects many people worldwide with little known about the intricate mechanisms driving the pathology, making it difficult to develop novel therapies. Improving the understanding of airway smooth muscle and extracellular matrix (ECM) interactions is key to developing treatments for this leading cause of death. With currently no relevant or controllable in vivo or in vitro models to investigate cell–ECM interactions in the small airways, the development of a biomimetic in vitro model with cell attachment, signaling, and organization is needed. The goal of this study was to create a biologically and structurally relevant in vitro model of small airway smooth muscle. In order to achieve this goal, a scaffold was engineered from synthetic poly-l-lactic acid (PLLA) and decellularized pig lung ECM (PLECM). PLECM scaffolds have improved physical characteristics over synthetic scaffolds, by exhibiting a significant decrease in the elastic modulus and an increase in hydrophilicity. Histological staining and SDS-PAGE showed that essential proteins or protein fragments found in natural ECM were present after processing. Human bronchial smooth muscle cells (HBSMCs) seeded onto PLECM 3D scaffolds formed confluent layers and maintained a contractile phenotype, as demonstrated by the organized arrangement of actin filaments within the cell and expected contractile protein expression of calponin 1. HBSMCs cultured on electrospun PLECM scaffold also increased alpha-1 type 1 collagen compared to those cultured on PLLA scaffolds. In summary, this research demonstrates that a PLLA/PLECM composite electrospun mat is a promising tool to produce an in vitro model of the airway with the potential for a better understanding of bronchiole smooth muscle behavior in diseased or normal states.