• angiogenesis;
  • scaffold;
  • endothelial;
  • mural cell;
  • microcirculation;
  • multiphoton


The success of tissue engineering depends on the rapid and efficient formation of a functional blood vasculature. Adult blood vessels comprise endothelial cells and perivascular mural cells that assemble into patent tubules ensheathed by a basement membrane during angiogenesis. Using individual vessel components, we characterized intra-scaffold microvessel self-assembly efficiency in a physiological in vivo tissue engineering implant context. Primary human microvascular endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells were seeded at different ratios in poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) scaffolds enriched with basement membrane proteins (Matrigel) and implanted subcutaneously into immunocompromised mice. Temporal intra-scaffold microvessel formation, anastomosis and perfusion were monitored by immunohistochemical, flow cytometric and in vivo multiphoton fluorescence microscopy analysis. Vascularization in the tissue-engineering context was strongly enhanced in implants seeded with a complete complement of blood vessel components: human microvascular endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells in vivo assembled a patent microvasculature within Matrigel-enriched PLLA scaffolds that anastomosed with the host circulation during the first week of implantation. Multiphoton fluorescence angiographic analysis of the intra-scaffold microcirculation showed a uniform, branched microvascular network. 3D image reconstruction analysis of human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell (hPASMC) distribution within vascularized implants was non-random and displayed a preferential perivascular localization. Hence, efficient microvessel self-assembly, anastomosis and establishment of a functional microvasculture in the native hypoxic in vivo tissue engineering context is promoted by providing a complete set of vascular components. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.