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Keywords:

  • co-culture;
  • endothelial;
  • mesenchymal stem cell;
  • vascularization;
  • scaffold;
  • bioreactor;
  • hypoxia;
  • bone tissue engineering

Abstract

Poor angiogenesis within tissue-engineered grafts has been identified as a main challenge limiting the clinical introduction of bone tissue-engineering (BTE) approaches for the repair of large bone defects. Thick BTE grafts often exhibit poor cellular viability particularly at the core, leading to graft failure and lack of integration with host tissues. Various BTE approaches have been explored for improving vascularisation in tissue-engineered constructs and are briefly discussed in this review. Recent investigations relating to co-culture systems of endothelial and osteoblast-like cells have shown evidence of BTE efficacy in increasing vascularization in thick constructs. This review provides an overview of key concepts related to bone formation and then focuses on the current state of engineered vascularized co-culture systems using bone repair as a model. It will also address key questions regarding the generation of clinically relevant vascularized bone constructs as well as potential directions and considerations for research with the objective of pursuing engineered co-culture systems in other disciplines of vascularized regenerative medicine. The final objective is to generate serious and functional long-lasting vessels for sustainable angiogenesis that will enable enhanced cellular survival within thick voluminous bone grafts, thereby aiding in bone formation and remodelling in the long term. However, more evidence about the quality of blood vessels formed and its associated functional improvement in bone formation as well as a mechanistic understanding of their interactions are necessary for designing better therapeutic strategies for translation to clinical settings. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.