Isolating and characterizing lymphatic endothelial progenitor cells for potential therapeutic lymphangiogenic applications

Kevin T. Campbell, Matthew B. Curtis, Joshua M. Massey, Kajetan Wysoczynski, Dustin J. Hadley, Steve C. George, Eduardo Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lymphatic dysfunction is associated with the progression of several vascular disorders, though currently, there are limited strategies to promote new lymphatic vasculature (i.e., lymphangiogenesis) to restore lost lymphatic function. One promising approach to stimulate lymphangiogenesis involves delivering endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), which are naturally involved in de novo blood vessel formation and have recently been identified to include a lymphatic subpopulation. However, the contribution of lymphatic EPCs in lymphangiogenesis is not clear and challenges with maintaining the activity of transplanted EPCs remain. Thus, the objective of this study was to isolate lymphatic EPCs from human umbilical cord blood and characterize their role in the initial stages of blood or lymphatic vasculature formation. Furthermore, this study also tested the applicability of alginate hydrogels to deliver lymphatic EPCs for a possible therapeutic application. We postulated and confirmed that blood and lymphatic EPC colonies could be isolated from human umbilical cord blood. Additionally, EPC populations responded to either angiogenic or lymphangiogenic growth factors and could stimulate their respective mature endothelial cells in vasculature models in vitro. Finally, lymphatic EPCs maintained their ability to promote lymphatic sprouts after prolonged interactions with the alginate hydrogel microenvironment. These results suggest EPCs have both a blood and a lymphatic population that have specific roles in promoting revascularization and highlight the potential of alginate hydrogels for the delivery of lymphatic EPCs. Statement of significance: Despite the potential therapeutic benefit of promoting lymphatic vasculature, lymphangiogenesis remains understudied. One appealing strategy for promoting lymphangiogenesis involves delivering lymphatic endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), which are a subpopulation of EPCs involved in de novo vessel formation. Here, we investigate the role of isolated blood and lymphatic EPC subpopulations in promoting the early stages of vascularization and the utility of alginate hydrogels to deliver lymphatic EPCs. We determined that EPCs had two populations that expressed either blood or lymphatic markers, could stimulate their respective mature vasculature in tissue constructs and that alginate hydrogels maintained the therapeutic potential of lymphatic EPCs. We anticipate this work could support promising biomaterial applications of EPCs to promote revascularization, which could have many therapeutic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Alginate
  • Angiogenesis
  • Endothelial progenitor cells
  • Hydrogel
  • Lymphangiogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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