To ensure survival of engineered implantable tissues thicker than approximately 2-3mm, convection of nutrients and waste products to enhance the rate of transport will be required. Creating a network of vessels in vitro, before implantation (prevascularization), is one potential strategy to achieve this aim. In this study, we developed three-dimensional engineered vessel networks in vitro by coculture of endothelial cells (ECs) and fibroblasts in a fibrin gel for 7 days. Vessels formed by cord blood endothelial progenitor cell-derived ECs (EPC-ECs) in the presence of a high density of fibroblasts created an interconnected tubular network within 4 days, compared with 5-7 days in the presence of a low density of fibroblasts. Vessels derived from human umbilical vein ECs (HUVECs) in vitro showed similar kinetics. Implantation of the prevascularized tissues into immune-compromised mice, however, revealed a dramatic difference in the ability of EPC-ECs and HUVECs to form anastomoses with the host vasculature. Vascular beds derived from EPC-ECs were perfused within 1 day of implantation, whereas no HUVEC vessels were perfused at day 1. Further, while almost 90% of EPC-EC-derived vascular beds were perfused at day 3, only one-third of HUVEC-derived vascular beds were perfused. In both cases, a high density of fibroblasts accelerated anastomosis by 2-3 days. We conclude that both EPC-ECs and a high density of fibroblasts significantly accelerate the rate of functional anastomosis, and that prevascularizing an engineered tissue may be an effective strategy to enhance convective transport of nutrients in vivo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering