Fibrin deposition is a consistent early event in solid tumors and healing wounds and precedes new blood vessel ingrowth in both. We now demonstrate that fibrin gels of themselves induce an angiogenic response in the absence of tumor cells or platelets. Angiogenesis was enhanced when certain chemoattractants or mitogens were included in the fibrin gel. Newly devised, inert plastic chambers with one porous surface were filled with varying contents and were implanted in the subcutaneous space of guinea pigs. Chambers filled with cross-linked homologous fibrin or plasma induced an angiogenic response within 4 days. Vessels entered chambers through the surface pores and flared out radially; angiogenesis was quantitated by point counting. Vessels were functional and matured along a gradient that proceeded from distal (least mature) to proximal. The intensity of the angiogenic response was enhanced when zymosan activated serum, an N-formylmethionine tripeptide, or platelet-derived growth factor was included in the fibrin matrix. Prior aldehyde fixation or boiling of fibrin-filled chambers inhibited angiogenesis, as did high concentrations of hyaluronic acid. Chambers filled with type I collagen or agarose did not induce new blood vessel formation, but addition of collagen did not reduce fibrin's capacity to initiate angiogenesis. The novel assay introduced here offers several advantages that should facilitate the study of angiogenesis. These include reproducibility, low background, objective and quantitative scoring, and the capacity to evaluate native molecules in animals of several species. Taken together, our findings strongly implicate fibrin or related proteins in the pathogenesis of angiogenesis and offer a new approach for elucidating the underlying molecular mechanisms.