Bioartificial heart valves and vascular grafts prepared from decellularized tissues could be recellularized with bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that are able to differentiate into both smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells. MSCs differentiation is facilitated by sustained release of growth factors. In our study assemblies based on fibrin, fibrin with heparin, fibrin with adsorbed or covalently-immobilized vascular endothelial growth factor A165 (VEGF) or basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) via binding to heparin attached to fibrin have been prepared and were evaluated for their stimulation of MSCs differentiation. We estimated the mRNA expression of endothelial marker CD31 (PECAM1), smooth muscle marker α-actin (ACTA2), osteoblast markers osteocalcin (BGLAP) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). The gene expression was estimated using RT-PCR on days 1, 7 and 21 after seeding. The cell morphology and viability was evaluated by LIVE/DEAD staining. VEGF, both adsorbed and covalently bound, increased significantly the expression of smooth muscle marker α-actin. The mRNA expression of ACTA2 on day 7 and 21 raised more than 200 times in comparison to control samples (undifferentiated cells before seeding). The ACTA2 gene expression significantly exceeded the expression of all other evaluated genes at all time intervals. Moreover, on day 21, the late smooth muscle marker desmin (DES) was steeply rising in cells cultivated on assemblies containing heparin and covalently bound VEGF. The expression of osteocalcin was minimal. We conclude that fibrin assembly containing covalently bound VEGF is the most convenient for MSCs differentiation towards smooth muscle cells.Keywords: Stem cells, differentiation, growth factors, smooth muscle cells, fibrin assemblies
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