Prevascularization of natural nanofibrous extracellular matrix for engineering completely biological three-dimensional prevascularized tissues for diverse applications.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering


Self‐sustainability after implantation is one of the critical obstacles facing large engineered tissues. A preformed functional vascular network provides an effective solution for solving the mass transportation problem. With the support of mural cells, endothelial cells (ECs) can form microvessels within engineered tissues. As an important mural cell, human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) not only stabilize the engineered microvessel network, but also preserve their multi‐potency when grown under optimal culture conditions. A prevascularized hMSC/extracellular matrix (ECM) sheet fabricated by the combination of hMSCs, ECs and a naturally derived nanofibrous ECM scaffold offers great opportunity for engineering mechanically strong and completely biological three‐dimensional prevascularized tissues. The objective of this study was to create a prevascularized hMSC/ECM sheet by co‐culturing ECs and hMSCs on a nanofibrous ECM scaffold. Physiologically low oxygen (2% O2) was introduced during the 7 day hMSC culture to preserve the stemness of hMSCs and thereby their capability to secrete angiogenic factors. The ECs were then included to form microvessels under normal oxygen (20% O2) for up to 7 days. The results showed that a branched and mature vascular network was formed in the co‐culture condition. Angiogenic factors vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and angiopoietin‐1 (Ang‐1) were significantly increased by low‐oxygen culture of hMSCs, which further stabilized and supported the maturation of microvessels. A differentiation assay of the prevascularized ECM scaffold demonstrated a retained hMSC multi‐potency in the hypoxia cultured samples. The prevascularized hMSC/ECM sheet holds great promise for engineering three‐dimensional prevascularized tissues for diverse applications.

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Journal of Tissue Engineering Regenerative Medicine