Stromal cell identity influences the in vivo functionality of engineered capillary networks formed by co-delivery of endothelial cells and stromal cells

Tissue Eng Part A. 2013 May;19(9-10):1209-22. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2012.0281. Epub 2013 Feb 1.


A major translational challenge in the fields of therapeutic angiogenesis and tissue engineering is the ability to form functional networks of blood vessels. Cell-based strategies to promote neovascularization have been widely explored, and have led to the consensus that co-delivery of endothelial cells (ECs) (or their progenitors) with some sort of a supporting stromal cell type is the most effective approach. However, the choice of stromal cells has varied widely across studies, and their impact on the functional qualities of the capillaries produced has not been examined. In this study, we injected human umbilical vein ECs alone or with normal human lung fibroblasts (NHLFs), human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs), or human adipose-derived stem cells (AdSCs) in a fibrin matrix into subcutaneous pockets in SCID mice. All conditions yielded new human-derived vessels that inosculated with mouse vasculature and perfused the implant, but there were significant functional differences in the capillary networks, depending heavily on the identity of the co-delivered stromal cells. EC-alone and EC-NHLF implants yielded immature capillary beds characterized by high levels of erythrocyte pooling in the surrounding matrix. EC-BMSC and EC-AdSC implants produced more mature capillaries characterized by less extravascular leakage and the expression of mature pericyte markers. Injection of a fluorescent tracer into the circulation also showed that EC-BMSC and EC-AdSC implants formed vasculature with more tightly regulated permeability. These results suggest that the identity of the stromal cells is key to controlling the functional properties of engineered capillary networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Capillaries / cytology*
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Stromal Cells / cytology*
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*