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Biomaterials. 2014 Feb;35(7):2149-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.11.054. Epub 2013 Dec 11.

Differential effects of cell adhesion, modulus and VEGFR-2 inhibition on capillary network formation in synthetic hydrogel arrays.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA; Materials Science Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI, USA; Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA. Electronic address:


Efficient biomaterial screening platforms can test a wide range of extracellular environments that modulate vascular growth. Here, we used synthetic hydrogel arrays to probe the combined effects of Cys-Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser (CRGDS) cell adhesion peptide concentration, shear modulus and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) inhibition on human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) viability, proliferation and tubulogenesis. HUVECs were encapsulated in degradable poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogels with defined CRGDS concentration and shear modulus. VEGFR2 activity was modulated using the VEGFR2 inhibitor SU5416. We demonstrate that synergy exists between VEGFR2 activity and CRGDS ligand presentation in the context of maintaining HUVEC viability. However, excessive CRGDS disrupts this synergy. HUVEC proliferation significantly decreased with VEGFR2 inhibition and increased modulus, but did not vary monotonically with CRGDS concentration. Capillary-like structure (CLS) formation was highly modulated by CRGDS concentration and modulus, but was largely unaffected by VEGFR2 inhibition. We conclude that the characteristics of the ECM surrounding encapsulated HUVECs significantly influence cell viability, proliferation and CLS formation. Additionally, the ECM modulates the effects of VEGFR2 signaling, ranging from changing the effectiveness of synergistic interactions between integrins and VEGFR2 to determining whether VEGFR2 upregulates, downregulates or has no effect on proliferation and CLS formation.


Angiogenesis; Cell encapsulation; ECM; Growth factors; Hydrogel

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