In-vivo performance of high-density collagen gel tubes for urethral regeneration in a rabbit model
Congenital malformations or injuries of the urethra can be treated using existing autologous tissue, but these procedures are sometimes associated with severe complications. Therefore, tissue engineering may be advantageous for generating urethral grafts. We evaluated engineered high-density collagen gel tubes as urethral grafts in 16 male New Zealand white rabbits. The constructs were either acellular or seeded with autologous smooth muscle cells, isolated from an open bladder biopsy. After the formation of a urethral defect by excision, the tissue-engineered grafts were interposed between the remaining urethral ends. No catheter was placed postoperatively. The animals were evaluated at 1 or 3 months by contrast urethrography and histological examination. Comparing the graft caliber to the control urethra at 3 months, a larger caliber was found in the cell-seeded grafts (96.6% of the normal caliber) than in the acellular grafts (42.3%). Histology of acellular and cell-seeded grafts did not show any sign of inflammation, and spontaneous regrowth of urothelium could be demonstrated in all grafts. Urethral fistulae, sometimes associated with stenosis, were observed, which might be prevented by urethral catheter application. High-density collagen gel tubes may be clinically useful as an effective treatment of congenital and acquired urethral pathologies. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.