Aging of the circulatory system correlates with the pathogenesis of a large spectrum of diseases. However, it is largely unknown which factors drive the age-dependent or pathological decline of the vasculature and how vascular defects relate to tissue aging. The goal of the study is to design a multianalytical approach to identify how the cellular microenvironment (i.e., fibroblasts) and serum from healthy donors of different ages or Alzheimer disease (AD) patients can modulate the functionality of organ-specific vascular endothelial cells (VECs). Long-living human microvascular networks embedding VECs and fibroblasts from skin biopsies are generated. RNA-seq, secretome analyses, and microfluidic assays demonstrate that fibroblasts from young donors restore the functionality of aged endothelial cells, an effect also achieved by serum from young donors. New biomarkers of vascular aging are validated in human biopsies and it is shown that young serum induces angiopoietin-like-4, which can restore compromised vascular barriers. This strategy is then employed to characterize transcriptional/functional changes induced on the blood-brain barrier by AD serum, demonstrating the importance of PTP4A3 in the regulation of permeability. Features of vascular degeneration during aging and AD are recapitulated, and a tool to identify novel biomarkers that can be exploited to develop future therapeutics modulating vascular function is established.
Keywords: 3D microvascular network; blood-brain barrier; endothelium; human serum; vascular aging.
© 2020 The Authors. Published by WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.