A promising approach to overcome hypoxic conditions in tissue engineered constructs is to use the potential of endothelial cells (EC) to form networks in vitro when co-cultured with a supporting cell type in a 3D environment. Adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (ASC) as well as bone marrow-derived stromal cells (BMSC) have been shown to support vessel formation of EC in vitro, but only very few studies compared the angiogenic potential of both cell types using the same model. Here, we aimed at investigating the ability of ASC and BMSC to induce network formation of EC in a co-culture model in fibrin. While vascular structures of BMSC and EC remained stable over the course of 3 weeks, ASC-EC co-cultures developed more junctions and higher network density within the same time frame. Both co-cultures showed positive staining for neural glial antigen 2 (NG2) and basal lamina proteins. This indicates that vessels matured and were surrounded by perivascular cells as well as matrix molecules involved in stabilization. Gene expression analysis revealed a significant increase of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in ASC-EC co-culture compared to BMSC-EC co-culture. These observations were donor-independent and highlight the importance of organotypic cell sources for vascular tissue engineering.
Full Access Link: Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology