Helena Vazão

University of Coimbra, Coímbra, Coimbra, Portugal

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Publications (5)15.36 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we describe the effects of the combination of topographical, mechanical, chemical and intracellular electrical stimuli on a co-culture of fibroblasts and skeletal muscle cells. The co-culture was anisotropically grown onto an engineered micro-grooved (10 µm-wide grooves) polyacrylamide substrate, showing a precisely tuned Young's modulus (∼ 14 kPa) and a small thickness (∼ 12 µm). We enhanced the co-culture properties through intracellular stimulation produced by piezoelectric nanostructures (i.e., boron nitride nanotubes) activated by ultrasounds, thus exploiting the ability of boron nitride nanotubes to convert outer mechanical waves (such as ultrasounds) in intracellular electrical stimuli, by exploiting the direct piezoelectric effect. We demonstrated that nanotubes were internalized by muscle cells and localized in both early and late endosomes, while they were not internalized by the underneath fibroblast layer. Muscle cell differentiation benefited from the synergic combination of topographical, mechanical, chemical and nanoparticle-based stimuli, showing good myotube development and alignment towards a preferential direction, as well as high expression of genes encoding key proteins for muscle contraction (i.e., actin and myosin). We also clarified the possible role of fibroblasts in this process, highlighting their response to the above mentioned physical stimuli in terms of gene expression and cytokine production. Finally, calcium imaging-based experiments demonstrated a higher functionality of the stimulated co-cultures.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(8):e71707. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Herein, we report that VEGF-functionalized dextran (dexOx-VEGF) is comparatively superior to free VEGF in prolonging the phosphorylation of VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR-2). Both dexOx-VEGF and free VEGF activate VEGFR-2, and the complexes are internalized into early endosomes (EEA1(+) vesicles) and then transported to lysosomes (Rab7(+) vesicles). However, after cell activation, dexOx-VEGF is preferentially colocalized in early endosomes where VEGF signaling is still active while free VEGF is preferentially transported to late endosomes or lysosomes. We further show that dexOx-VEGF after phosphorylation of VEGF receptor 2 induces an increase of intracellular Ca(2+) and activates VEGF downstream effectors such as Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) proteins. Under specific conditions, the activation level is different from the one observed for free VEGF, thus suggesting mechanistic differences, which is illustrated by cell migration and cord-like formation studies. DexOx-VEGF can be cross-linked with adipic acid dihydrazide to form a degradable gel, which in turn can be incorporated in a fibrin gel containing endothelial cells (ECs) to modulate their activity. We envision that these constructs might be beneficial to extend the pro-angiogenic activity of VEGF in ischemic tissues and to modulate the biological activity of vascular cells.
    Biomacromolecules 08/2012; 13(9):2906-16. · 5.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study aims at investigating the behavior in terms of the proliferation and skeletal muscle differentiation capability of two myoblastic cell lines, C2C12 and H9c2, on both isotropic and anisotropic electrospun nanofibrous poly(hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) scaffolds, as well as on PHB films and polystyrene controls. After a careful characterization of the matrices in terms of surface morphology, surface roughness and mechanical properties, the proliferation rate and the capability of the two cell lines to form skeletal myotubes were evaluated. Genetic analyses were also performed in order to assess the differentiation level of the cells on the different substrates. We demonstrated that the aligned nanofibrous mesh decreases the proliferation activity and provides a higher differentiative stimulus. We also clarified how the nanofibrous substrate influences myotube formation, and quantified a series of myotube-related parameters for both C2C12 and H9c2 cells.
    Biomedical Materials 04/2012; 7(3):035010. · 2.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this study we demonstrate that CD34(+) cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have higher smooth muscle cell (SMC) potential than CD34(-) cells. We report that from all inductive signals tested, retinoic acid (RA) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF(BB)) are the most effective agents in guiding the differentiation of CD34(+) cells into smooth muscle progenitor cells (SMPCs) characterized by the expression of SMC genes and proteins, secretion of SMC-related cytokines, contraction in response to depolarization agents and vasoactive peptides and expression of SMC-related genes in a 3D environment. These cells are also characterized by a low organization of the contractile proteins and the contractility response is mediated by Ca(2+), which involves the activation of Rho A/Rho kinase- and Ca(2+)/calmodulin (CaM)/myosin light chain kinase (MLCK)-dependent pathways. We further show that SMPCs obtained from the differentiation of CD34(+) cells with RA, but not with PDGF(BB,) can be maturated in medium supplemented with endothelin-1 showing at the end individualized contractile filaments. Overall the hESC-derived SMCs presented in this work might be an unlimited source of SMCs for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
    PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(3):e17771. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Stem cell-based therapies represent a promising therapy for myocardial infarction. Pre-clinical and clinical tests performed in the last 10 years indicate that several types of stem cells and their progenies reduce infarct size and improve cardiac contractile function. The mechanism is dependent on the type of cell and involves a combination of several factors, such as: (i) the formation of new blood vessels, (ii) the release of pro-survival, pro-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory factors (paracrine effect), and (iii) the functional contribution of cardiomyocytes. With the exception of cardiac progenitor cells and pluripotent stem cells (human embryonic stem cells and inducible pluripotent stem cells) that have the unquestioned ability to give rise to cardiomyocytes, the other stem cells, including bone-marrow stem cells and fetal stem cells, have none or very limited capacity to differentiate into contractile cells. For both cases, it is of the utmost importance to develop strategies to promote cell survival and in vivo engraftment as well as to unravel the therapeutic mechanism of stem cells. This review focuses on the recent developments of stem cells and on the use of biomaterials for efficiently stem cell delivery and tracking.
    Cardiovascular & hematological disorders drug targets. 09/2010; 10(3):173-85.