Axillary dissection during breast cancer surgery produces extensive lymphatic vessel damage that often leads to lifelong secondary lymphedema of the arm. We have developed a biodegradable material conduit for lymphatic vessel reconstruction where fibers electrospun along the conduit lumen promote endothelial cell alignment and migration in vitro. The diameter and density of the electrospun fibers were optimized for cell migration and direction on two-dimensional substrates by seeding human lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) onto aligned fibers of varying diameters and densities, randomly oriented fibers, and film substrates with no fibers. We found that LECs became aligned in the fiber direction, with cells seeded on the randomly oriented fibers becoming oriented in random directions, whereas cells seeded on the highly aligned fibers became highly aligned. Cell migration was dependent upon fiber alignment and density, with optimal migration found on 1300 nm diameter aligned fibers of low density. Blood endothelial cells seeded on the fibers exhibited similar behavior as the LECs. Fiber alignment was preserved upon rolling the two-dimensional substrate into the tubular geometry of a lymphatic vessel. The data suggest that aligned electrospun fibers may promote endothelial migration across the conduit in a manner that is independent of lymphatic growth factors.
Acta Biomater.7, 1104–1113 (2011).