To achieve the task of fabricating functional tissues, scaffold materials that can be sufficiently vascularized to mimic functionality and complexity of native tissues are yet to be developed. Here, we report development of synthetic, biomimetic hydrogels that allow the rapid formation of a stable and mature vascular network both in vitro and in vivo. Hydrogels were fabricated with integrin binding sites and protease-sensitive substrates to mimic the natural provisional extracellular matrices, and endothelial cells cultured in these hydrogels organized into stable, intricate networks of capillary-like structures. The resulting structures were further stabilized by recruitment of mesenchymal progenitor cells that differentiated into a smooth muscle cell lineage and deposited collagen IV and laminin in vitro. In addition, hydrogels transplanted into mouse corneas were infiltrated with host vasculature, resulting in extensive vascularization with functional blood vessels. These results indicate that these hydrogels may be useful for applications in basic biological research, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.