Developing A Biomimetic In Vitro Model for Vocal Fold Tissue Engineering

2019-01-02T15:00:46Z (GMT) by Tanaya P. Walimbe
Vocal fold scarring is the fibrotic manifestation of most common pathological voice disorders. Voice disorders lead to direct healthcare costs of over $200 million annually and significantly reduce quality of life for patients. Despite advances in understanding the pathophysiology of vocal fold scarring, effective treatments for scarring and fibrosis remain elusive. The wound-healing cascade associated with vocal fold injury involves complex signaling interactions between cells and their extracellular matrix (ECM), which remain largely unexplored due to the lack of a physiologically relevant preclinical model to study them. Traditional preclinical models do not capture the complex 3D microenvironment of the vocal folds, and the use of stem cells or fibroblasts alone in models has resulted in poor reproducibility and predictability of in vitro models. Toward this end, this work describes the development of a preclinical model that strives to take into account cellular interactions between fibroblasts and epithelial cells and achieve a balance in the native vocal fold 3D environment to function as an in vitro model.

Since a major shortcoming of current in vitro models is the lack of a standardized epithelial fibroblast coculture, initial work focused on developing a coculture system between commercially available tracheal epithelial cells and vocal fold fibroblasts in an in vitro setting that would provide more accurate information about the disease pathophysiology and help design better targeted treatments. We designed a healthy and disease state coculture model that can be induced into a fibroplastic state to overexpress stress fibers using TGFβ1. We also demonstrated that both cell types maintained phenotype in the healthy and disease state coculture models.

To further transfer this model in a physiologically relevant 3D system, follow-up research characterized 3D matrices to mimic the native ECM of the vocal folds by using natural biomimetic materials found in the vocal folds such as hyaluronic acid, type I collagen, and type III collagen. We hypothesized that the ability to control the viscoelastic and structuralcharacteristics of the scaffold in combination with presenting relevant biological cues to cells will result in a better biomimetic scaffold. This research is expected to lay effective groundwork for developing a functional tissue engineered 3D coculture model that retains the reproducibility necessary to serve as a viable diagnostic and therapeutic screening platform.