The "artificial artery" as in vitro perfusion model

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e57227. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057227. Epub 2013 Mar 7.


Metabolic stimuli, pressure, and fluid shear stress (FSS) are major mediators of vascular plasticity. The exposure of the vessel wall to increased laminar FSS is the main trigger of arteriogenesis, the remodelling of pre-existent arterio-arteriolar anastomoses to functional conductance arteries. In this study, we have used an in vitro bioreactor to investigate cell-specific interactions, molecular mechanisms as well as time-dependent effects under laminar FSS conditions. This bioreactor termed "artificial artery" can be used for screening potential arterio-protective substances, pro-arteriogenic factors, and for investigating biomarkers of cardiovascular diseases such as cardiac diseases. The bioreactor is built up out of 14 hollow fiber membranes colonized with endothelial cells (HUVECs) on the inside and smooth muscle cells (HUASMCs) on the outside. By means of Hoechst 33342 staining as well as immunocytochemistry of ß-catenin and α-smooth-muscle-actin, a microporous polypropylene membrane was characterized as being the appropriate polymer for co-colonization. Defined arterial flow conditions (0.1 N/m2 and 3 N/m2), metabolic exchange, and cross-talk of HUVECs and HUASMCs through hollow fibers mimic physiological in vivo conditions of the vasculature. Analysing mono- and co-culture secretomes by MALDI-TOF-TOF mass spectrometry, we could show that HUVECs secreted Up4A upon 3 N/m2. A constant cellular secretion of randomly chosen peptides verified viability of the "artificial artery" for a cultivation period up to five days. qRT-PCR analyses revealed an up-regulation of KLF2 and TIMP1 as mechano-regulated genes and demonstrated arterio-protective, homeostatic FSS conditions by a down-regulation of EDN1. Expression analyses of VWF and EDN1 furthermore confirmed that RNA of both cell types could separately be isolated without cross-contamination. CCND1 mRNA expression in HUVECs did not change upon FSS indicating a quiescent endothelial phenotype. Taken together, the "artificial artery" provides a solid in vitro model to test pharmacological active compounds for their impact on arterio-damaging or arterio-protective properties on vascular response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arteries / physiology*
  • Blood Circulation / physiology*
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells
  • Humans
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tissue Engineering* / instrumentation
  • Tissue Engineering* / methods


  • Membranes, Artificial

Grant support

This study was supported from Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF; 13920B and 01GR0807 (KL/JJ)). VJ is recipient of a Rahel-Hirsch-scholarship from the Charité (Germany)and Sonnenfeld Stiftung (VJ). DJ was partially supported through the German Research Foundation by funding through the graduate school 203 “Berlin-Brandenburg School of Regenerative Therapies”. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.