Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Wei Tan

Second Advisor

Virginia L. Ferguson

Third Advisor

Stephanie J. Bryant


Vascular graft is a widely-used medical device for the treatment of vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and aneurysm as well as for the use of vascular access and pediatric shunt, which are major causes of mortality and morbidity in this world. Dysfunction of vascular grafts often occurs, particularly for grafts with diameter less than 6mm, and is associated with the design of graft materials. Mechanical strength, compliance, permeability, endothelialization and availability are issues of most concern for vascular graft materials. To address these issues, we have designed a biodegradable, compliant graft made of hybrid multilayer by combining an intimal equivalent, electrospun heparin-impregnated poly-ε-caprolactone nanofibers, with a medial equivalent, a crosslinked collagen-chitosan-based gel scaffold. The intimal equivalent is designed to build mechanical strength and stability suitable for in vivo grafting and to prevent thrombosis. The medial equivalent is designed to serve as a scaffold for the activity of the smooth muscle cells important for vascular healing and regeneration. Our results have shown that genipin is a biocompatible crosslinker to enhance the mechanical properties of collagen-chitosan based scaffolds, and the degradation time and the activity of smooth muscle cells in the scaffold can be modulated by the crosslinking degree. For vascular grafting and regeneration in vivo, an important design parameter of the hybrid multilayer is the interface adhesion between the intimal and medial equivalents. With diametrically opposite affinities to water, delamination of the two layers occurs. Physical or chemical modification techniques were thus used to enhance the adhesion. Microscopic examination and graft-relevant functional characterizations have been performed to evaluate these techniques. Results from characterization of microstructure and functional properties, including burst strength, compliance, water permeability and suture strength, showed that the multilayer graft possessed properties mimicking those of native vessels. Achieving these FDA-required functional properties is essential because they play critical roles in graft performances in vivo such as thrombus formation, occlusion, healing, and bleeding. In addition, cell studies and animal studies have been performed on the multilayer graft. Our results show that the multilayer graft support mimetic vascular culture of cells and the acellular graft serves as an artery equivalent in vivo to sustain the physiological conditions and promote appropriate cellular activity. In conclusion, the newly-developed hybrid multilayer graft provides a proper balance of biomechanical and biochemical properties and demonstrates the potential for the use of vascular tissue engineering and regeneration.