• capillary-like network;
  • angiogenesis;
  • endothelial cell;
  • collagen gel;
  • tissue engineering


A possible strategy for creating three-dimensional (3D) tissue-engineered organs in vitro with similar volumes to the primary organs is to develop a capillary network throughout the constructs to provide sufficient oxygenation and nutrition to the cells composing them. Here, we propose a novel approach for the creation of a capillary-like network in vitro, based on the spontaneous tube-forming activity of vascular endothelial cells (ECs) in collagen gel. We fabricated a linear tube of 500 µm in diameter, the inner surface of which was filled with bovine carotid artery vascular endothelial cells (BECs), in type I collagen gel as a starting point for the formation of a capillary-like network. The BECs exposed to a medium containing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) migrated into the ambient gel around the tube. After 2 weeks of VEGF exposure, the distance of the migration into the ambient gel in the radial direction of the tube reached approximately 800 µm. Cross-sections of capillary-like structures composed of the migrating BECs, with a lumen-like interior space, were observed in slices of the gel around the tube stained with hematoxylin–eosin (H&E). These results demonstrate that this approach using a pre-established tube, which is composed of ECs, as a starting point for a self-developing capillary-like network is potentially useful for constructing 3D organs in vitro. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.