Background: Blood vessel growth is necessary for normal tissue homeostatis and contributes to solid tumor growth. Methods to quantitate neovascularization should be useful in testing biological factors and drugs that regulate angiogenesis or to induce a vascular supply to promote wound healing.
Experimental design: An extract of basement membrane proteins (Matrigel) was found to reconstitute into a gel when injected subcutaneously into C57/BL mice and to support an intense vascular response when supplemented with angiogenic factors.
Results: New vessels and von Willebrand factor antigen staining were apparent in the gel 2-3 days after injection, reaching a maximum after 3-5 days. Hemoglobin content of the gels was found to parallel the increase in vessels in the gel allowing ready quantitation. Angiogenesis was obtained with both acidic and basic fibroblast growth factors and was enhanced by heparin. Several substances were tested for angiostatic activity in this assay by coinjection in Matrigel with fibroblast growth factor and heparin. Platelet-derived growth factor BB, interleukin 1-beta, interleukin-6, and transforming growth factor-beta were potent inhibitors of neovascularization induced by fibroblast growth factor. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha did not alter the response but was alone a potent inducer of neovascularization when coinjected with Matrigel and heparin. Consistent with the previously demonstrated importance of collagenase in mediating endothelial cell invasion, a tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases that also inhibits collagenases was found to be a potent inhibitor of fibroblast growth factor-induced angiogenesis.
Conclusions: Our assay allows the ready quantitative assessment of angiogenic and anti-angiogenic factors and should be useful in the isolation of endothelial cells from the capillaries that penetrate into the gel.