Self-assembled microvasculature from cocultures of endothelial cells (ECs) and stromal cells has significantly advanced efforts to vascularize engineered tissues by enhancing perfusion rates in vivo and producing investigative platforms for microvascular morphogenesis in vitro. However, to clinically translate prevascularized constructs, the issue of EC source must be resolved. Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) can be noninvasively supplied from the recipient through adult peripheral and umbilical cord blood, as well as derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, alleviating antigenicity issues. EPCs can also differentiate into all tissue endothelium, and have demonstrated potential for therapeutic vascularization. Yet, EPCs are not the standard EC choice to vascularize tissue constructs in vitro. Possible reasons include unresolved issues with EPC identity and characterization, as well as uncertainty in the selection of coculture, scaffold, and culture media combinations that promote EPC microvessel formation. This review addresses these issues through a summary of EPC vascular biology and the effects of tissue engineering design parameters upon EPC microvessel formation. Also included are perspectives to integrate EPCs with emerging technologies to produce functional, organotypic vascularized tissues.
Keywords: angiogenesis; endothelial progenitor cells; vascularization; vasculogenesis.