Low density vascular smooth muscle (VSM) cell cultures maintained on extracellular-matrix(ECM)-coated dishes and plated in the presence of either plasma or serum will proliferate actively when serum-containing medium is replaced by a synthetic medium supplemented with three factors: high density lipoprotein (HDL, 250 micrograms protein/ml); insulin (2.5 micrograms/ml) or somatomedin C (10 ng/ml); and fibroblast growth factor (FGF, 100 ng/ml) or epidermal growth factor (EGF, 50 ng/ml). The omission of any of these three factors from the synthetic medium results in a lower growth rate of the cultures, as well as in a lower final cell density once cultures reach confluence. When cells are plated in the total absence of serum, transferrin (10 micrograms/ml) is also required to induce optimal cell growth. The effects of the substrate and medium supplements on the life span of VSM cultures have also been analyzed. Cultures maintained on plastic and exposed to medium supplemented with 5% bovine serum underwent 15 generations. However, when maintained on ECM-coated dishes the serum-fed cultures had a life span of at least 88 generations. Likewise, when cultures were maintained in a synthetic medium supplemented with HDL and either FGF or EGF, an effect on the tissue culture life span by the substrate was observed. Cultures maintained on plastic underwent 24 generations, whereas those maintained on ECM-coated dishes could be passaged repeatedly for 58 generations. These experiments demonstrate the influence of the ECM-substrate only in promoting cell growth but also in increasing the longevity of the cultures.

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