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Tissue Eng Part A. 2010 Feb;16(2):585-94. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2009.0491.

Rapid anastomosis of endothelial progenitor cell-derived vessels with host vasculature is promoted by a high density of cotransplanted fibroblasts.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California 92697-2730, USA.


To ensure survival of engineered implantable tissues thicker than approximately 2-3 mm, 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.

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