Background/Aims: A crucial step in providing clinically relevant applications of cardiovascular tissue engineering involves the identification of a suitable cell source. The objective of this study was to identify the exogenous and endogenous parameters that are critical for the differentiation of human adipose stem cells (hASCs) into cardiovascular cells. Methods: hASCs were isolated from human lipoaspirate samples, analyzed, and subjected to two differentiation protocols. Results: As shown by fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) analysis, a population of hASCs expressed stem cell markers including CXCR4, CD34, c-kit, and ABCG2. Further, FACS and immunofluorescence analysis of hASCs, cultured for 2 weeks in DMEM-20%-FBS, showed the expression of smooth muscle cell (SMC)-specific markers including SM α-actin, basic calponin, h-caldesmon and SM myosin. hASCs, cultured for 2 weeks in endothelial cell growth medium-2 (EGM-2), formed a network of branched tube-like structures positive for CD31, CD144, and von Willebrand factor. The frequency of endothelial cell (EC) marker-expressing cells was passage number-dependent. Moreover, hASCs attached and formed a confluent layer on top of electrospun collagen-elastin scaffolds. Scanning electron microscopy and DAPI staining confirmed the integration of hASCs with the fibers and formation of a cell-matrix network. Conclusion: Our results indicate that hASCs are a potential cell source for cardiovascular tissue engineering; however, the differentiation capacity of hASCs into SMCs and ECs is passage number- and culture condition-dependent.

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