Acta biomaterialia

Enzymatic regulation of functional vascular networks using gelatin hydrogels.

PMID 25749296


To manufacture tissue engineering-based functional tissues, scaffold materials that can be sufficiently vascularized to mimic the functionality and complexity of native tissues are needed. Currently, vascular network bioengineering is largely carried out using natural hydrogels as embedding scaffolds, but most natural hydrogels have poor mechanical stability and durability, factors that critically limit their widespread use. In this study, we examined the suitability of gelatin-phenolic hydroxyl (gelatin-Ph) hydrogels that can be enzymatically crosslinked, allowing tuning of the storage modulus and the proteolytic degradation rate, for use as injectable hydrogels to support the human progenitor cell-based formation of a stable and mature vascular network. Porcine gelatin-Ph hydrogels were found to be cytocompatible with human blood-derived endothelial colony-forming cells and white adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells, resulting in >87% viability, and cell proliferation and spreading could be modulated by using hydrogels with different proteolytic degradability and stiffness. In addition, gelatin was extracted from mouse dermis and murine gelatin-Ph hydrogels were prepared. Importantly, implantation of human cell-laden porcine or murine gelatin-Ph hydrogels into immunodeficient mice resulted in the rapid formation of functional anastomoses between the bioengineered human vascular network and the mouse vasculature. Furthermore, the degree of enzymatic crosslinking of the gelatin-Ph hydrogels could be used to modulate cell behavior and the extent of vascular network formation in vivo. Our report details a technique for the synthesis of gelatin-Ph hydrogels from allogeneic or xenogeneic dermal skin and suggests that these hydrogels can be used for biomedical applications that require the formation of microvascular networks, including the development of complex engineered tissues.