Phenotypic changes in cultured smooth muscle cells: Limitation or opportunity for tissue engineering of hollow organs?

Alexander Huber, Stephen F. Badylak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) are typically used as a cell source for the reconstruction of hollow organs by conventional tissue engineering techniques. However, the necessity for and advantage of the use of tissue-specific SMCs are unknown. The present study investigated the phenotypic changes that occur following isolation and in vitro expansion of rat SMC populations isolated from three different tissues: the aorta, oesophagus and urinary bladder. rSMCs were isolated by enzymatic dispersion and expanded by conventional cell culture techniques, yielding microscopically homogeneous populations. SMC phenotypes were monitored according to their expression of marker proteins during the first two passages. Two of the three SMC populations (rSMC-a and rSMC-e) showed a marked change in their marker protein profiles during the first two passages, which resulted in a homogeneous phenotype that was neither fully contractile nor fully synthetic. SMCs from the urinary bladder did not show such a shift. Differences between the three rSMC populations were observed with regard to proliferative activity and gene expression patterns, suggesting the retention of some tissue-specific cell characteristics. In summary, phenotypic changes in SMCs occur as a result of conventional cell isolation and expansion techniques, thus questioning the necessity for a tissue-specific cell source for regenerative medicine applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-511
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell culture
  • Cell expansion
  • Differentiation
  • In vitro
  • Smooth muscle cell
  • Tissue engineering


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