Most tissues, including those to be decellularized for tissue engineering applications, are frozen for long term preservation. Such conventional cryopreservation has been shown to alter the structure and mechanical properties of tissues. Little is known, however, how freezing affects decellularization of tissues. The purpose of this study was two-fold: to examine the effects of freezing on decellularization of human umbilical arteries (HUAs), which represent a potential scaffolding material for small-diameter tissue-engineered vascular grafts, and to examine how decellularization affects the mechanical properties of frozen HUAs. Among many decellularization methods, hypotonic sodium dodecyl sulfate solution was selected as the decellularizing agent and tested on fresh HUAs to optimize decellularization conditions. The efficiency of decellularization was evaluated by DNA assay and histology every 12 up to 48 h. The optimized decellularization protocol was then performed on frozen HUAs. The stiffness, burst pressure, and suture retention strength of fresh HUAs and frozen HUAs before and after decellularization were also examined. It appeared that freezing decreased the efficiency of decellularization, which may be attributed to the condensed extracellular matrix caused by freezing. While the stiffness of fresh HUAs did not change significantly after decellularization, decellularization reduced the compliance of frozen HUAs. Interestingly, the stiffness of decellularized frozen HUAs was similar to that of decellularized fresh HUAs. Although little difference in stiffness was observed, we suggest avoiding freezing if more efficient and complete decellularization is desired.
- Conventional cryopreservation
- Human umbilical arteries
- Mechanical properties
- Small-diameter tissue-engineered vascular grafts