Physical Properties and Biochemical Composition of Extracellular Matrix-Derived Hydrogels Dictate Vascularization Potential in an Organ-Dependent Fashion

ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2024 Jun 12;16(23):29930-29945. doi: 10.1021/acsami.4c05864. Epub 2024 May 31.


The inherent extracellular matrix (ECM) originating from a specific tissue impacts the process of vascularization, specifically vascular network formation (VNF) orchestrated by endothelial cells (ECs). The specific contribution toward these processes of ECM from highly disparate organs such as the skin and lungs remains a relatively unexplored area. In this study, we compared VNF and ECM remodeling mediated by microvascular ECs within gel, lung, and combinations thereof (hybrid) ECM hydrogels. Irrespective of the EC source, the skin-derived ECM hydrogel exhibited a higher propensity to drive and support VNF compared to both lung and hybrid ECM hydrogels. There were distinct disparities in the physical properties of the three types of hydrogels, including viscoelastic properties and complex architectural configurations, including fiber diameter, pore area, and numbers among the fibers. The hybrid ECM hydrogel properties were unique and not the sum of the component ECM parts. Furthermore, cellular ECM remodeling responses varied with skin ECM hydrogels promoting matrix metalloproteinase 1 (MMP1) secretion, while hybrid ECM hydrogels exhibited increased MMP9, fibronectin, and collagen IV deposition. Principal component analysis (PCA) indicated that the influence of a gel's mechanical properties on VNF was stronger than the biochemical composition. These data indicate that the organ-specific properties of an ECM dictate its capacity to support VNF, while intriguingly showing that ECs respond to more than just the biochemical constituents of an ECM. The study suggests potential applications in regenerative medicine by strategically selecting ECM origin or combinations to manipulate vascularization, offering promising prospects for enhancing wound healing through pro-regenerative interventions.

Keywords: ECM hydrogel; biomechanics; endothelial cells; extracellular matrix; vascularization.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix* / chemistry
  • Extracellular Matrix* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels* / chemistry
  • Lung / blood supply
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / chemistry
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / metabolism
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / chemistry
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic* / drug effects
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Skin / metabolism


  • Hydrogels
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9