Abdominal wall reconstruction following extensive tissue loss is essential and can be achieved using autologous flaps. However, their use is limited due to their inadequate availability and due to post-operative donor site scarification. This work presents a step-by-step technique for fabrication of a vascularized muscle flap, to be applied in full-thickness abdominal wall defect reconstruction. Poly l-lactic acid/poly lactic-co-glycolic acid scaffolds, prepared using a salt leaching technique, were used as the supporting matrix in vitro for simultaneously seeded endothelial cells, fibroblasts and myoblasts. The cell-embedded graft was then implanted around femoral artery and vein vessels, which provided a central blood supply. Vascularization and perfusion were achieved by capillary sprouting from the main host vessel into the graft. A thick and vascularized tissue was formed within one week, and was then transferred as an autologous flap together with its main vessels, to a full-thickness abdominal wall defect. The flap remained viable after transfer and featured sufficient mechanical strength to support the abdominal viscera. Thus, this engineered muscle flap can be used as an alternative source for autologous flaps to reconstruct full-thickness abdominal wall defects.
- Tissue engineering
- Vascularized tissue