Hyaluronan in Matrix and Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering with hyaluronan addresses the fundamental issue of how the various intercellular macromolecules, primarily collagens, proteoglycans and hyaluronan affect the assembly of cells by providing intercellular scaffolding. The question is how hyaluronan or its derivatives can allow, or in combination with other structural matrix molecules, can help organize cells in vitro to form tissues or help to integrate such cell assemblies into living organs. The role of hyaluronan can be structural or organizational (informational) (181). In the 1970s we called this 'matrix engineering' and focused on the role of hyaluronan in the healing process of internal wounds such as chronic intra-articular inflammatory (arthritis) or degenerative (arthrosis) processes (79). During the past decade the signaling and information-transmitting role of hyaluronan brought a new dimension to this field. In vitro and animal experiments explored the use of various hyaluronan derivatives and combinations with other substances as scaffolding to reconstruct or graft tissues (cartilage, bone, bone marrow, dermal, epidermal, and adipose tissue) (182-186). Some of these studies have been extended to clinical trials in patients with skin ulcers and severe burns (185,186).

Hyaluronan gels (hylan B) have also been used to develop bioengineered artificial heart valves. In this development the goal is to create elastin-rich tissue in vitro. It was found that neonatal aortic smooth muscle cells seeded on hylan B gel formed elastin-rich sheets (187,188).

Tissue engineering with hyaluronan is still in the early development stage. The full utilization of this molecule for matrix and tissue engineering will be achieved when one can integrate the mechanical and chemical (pharmacological) role of this molecule in the maintenance of the healthy tissues and then exploit this knowledge to provide and direct regenerative processes.

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to express his gratitude for the excellent work of Joanne Caha in preparing the manuscript and the help of Janet Denlinger for the critical review and editing.

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Chemistry and Biology of Hyaluronan H.G. Garg and C.A. Hales (editors) © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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