Assessment of the Anticoagulant and Anti-inflammatory Properties of Endothelial Cells Using 3D Cell Culture and Non-anticoagulated Whole Blood

J Vis Exp. 2017 Sep 5;(127):56227. doi: 10.3791/56227.


In vivo, endothelial cells are crucial for the natural anticoagulation of circulating blood. Consequently, endothelial cell activation leads to blood coagulation. This phenomenon is observed in many clinical situations, like organ transplantation in the presence of pre-formed anti-donor antibodies, including xenotransplantation, as well as in ischemia/reperfusion injury. In order to reduce animal experimentation according to the 3R standards (reduction, replacement and refinement), in vitro models to study the effect of endothelial cell activation on blood coagulation would be highly desirable. However, common flatbed systems of endothelial cell culture provide a surface-to-volume ratio of 1 - 5 cm2 of endothelium per mL of blood, which is not sufficient for natural, endothelial-mediated anticoagulation. Culturing endothelial cells on microcarrier beads may increase the surface-to-volume ratio to 40 - 160 cm2/mL. This increased ratio is sufficient to ensure the "natural" anticoagulation of whole blood, so that the use of anticoagulants can be avoided. Here an in vitro microcarrier-based system is described to study the effects of genetic modification of porcine endothelial cells on coagulation of whole, non-anticoagulated human blood. In the described assay, primary porcine aortic endothelial cells, either wild type (WT) or transgenic for human CD46 and thrombomodulin, were grown on microcarrier beads and then exposed to freshly drawn non-anticoagulated human blood. This model allows for the measurement and quantification of cytokine release as well as activation markers of complement and coagulation in the blood plasma. In addition, imaging of activated endothelial cell and deposition of immunoglobulins, complement- and coagulation proteins on the endothelialized beads were performed by confocal microscopy. This assay can also be used to test drugs which are supposed to prevent endothelial cell activation and, thus, coagulation. On top of its potential to reduce the number of animals used for such investigations, the described assay is easy to perform and consistently reproducible.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta, Thoracic / cytology
  • Aorta, Thoracic / physiology
  • Blood Coagulation / physiology*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Microspheres
  • Swine