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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2013 Jan 15;304(2):H235-45. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00552.2012. Epub 2012 Nov 2.

An angiogenesis model for investigating multicellular interactions across intact microvascular networks.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tulane University, Lindy Boggs Center, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA.


Developing therapies aimed at manipulating microvascular remodeling requires a better understanding of angiogenesis and how angiogenesis relates to other network remodeling processes, such as lymphangiogenesis and neurogenesis. The objective of this study was to develop an angiogenesis model that enables probing of multicellular and multisystem interactions at the molecular level across an intact adult microvascular network. Adult male Wistar rat mesenteric windows were aseptically harvested and cultured in serum-free minimum essential media. Viability/cytotoxicity analysis revealed that cells remain alive for at least 7 days. Immunohistochemical labeling at 3 days for platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM), neuron-glial antigen 2 (NG2), lymphatic vessel endothelial hyaluronan receptor-1 (LYVE-1), and class III β-tubulin identified endothelial cells, pericytes, lymphatics, and nerves, respectively. Media supplemented with bFGF or VEGF induced an increase in endothelial cell sprouting off existing vessels. Endothelial cell sprouting in both growth factor groups was inhibited by targeting pericytes with NG2 functional blocking antibody. VEGF caused an increase in the number of lymphatic/blood endothelial cell connections compared with media alone or bFGF groups. Finally, the comparison of the same network before and after angiogenesis stimulated by the supplement of media with 20% serum identified the ability of disconnected endothelial segments to reconnect to nearby vessels. The results establish a novel in situ angiogenesis model for investigating the location of capillary sprouting within an intact network, the role of pericytes, lymphatic/blood endothelial cell interactions, and the fate of specific endothelial cell segments. The rat mesentery culture system offers a unique tool for understanding the complex dynamics associated with angiogenesis in an intact adult tissue.

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