Tissue engineering. Part A

Self-assembly of prevascular tissues from endothelial and fibroblast cells under scaffold-free, nonadherent conditions.

PMID 25076018


To advance the emerging field of bioengineered prevascularized tissues, we investigated factors that control primary vascular network formation in scaffold-free, high-density cell suspension-derived tissues. Fabricating primary vascular networks in a scaffold-free system requires endothelial cells (ECs) and extracellular matrix (ECM)-producing cells that act together to elaborate a permissive matrix. We report findings on the effects to vascular patterning induced by altering the ratio of human endothelial to human fibroblast cells. Analysis revealed that a 1:4 ratio of ECs to fibroblasts resulted in the synthesis of an ECM permissive for organization of primary vascular networks that recapitulated the pattern of primary vascular networks observed in vivo. Importantly this work highlighted the significance of tension in the organization of vascular networks in prevascularized tissues. To our knowledge our in vitro studies are the first to demonstrate the formation of two distinct vascular patterns in an initially homogenous culture system. Specifically, we demonstrate that within our constructs, vascular networks formed with distinct directional orientations that reflect self-assembly-mediated tension. Further, our studies demonstrate that treatment of prevascularized tissues with matrix-promoting factors such as transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFβ1) increases tissue strength without altering vascular network patterning. Together, the ability to generate prevascularized tissues from human cells in scaffold-free systems and the ability to enhance the strength of the constructs with matrix-promoting factors represent advances to the potential translational utility of prevascularized tissues both as subcutaneous implants and in surgical scenarios requiring the application of tension to the tissue construct.