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Keywords:

  • endothelial progenitor cells;
  • fibrin matrix;
  • angiogenesis;
  • tissue engineering

Abstract

Vascularization of bioartificial matrices is crucial for successful tissue engineering. Endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) have shown vascularization potential in ischemic conditions and may also support blood vessel formation in tissue-engineered matrices. The aim of our study was to investigate the impact of a well-characterized murine embryonal EPC line (T17b-EPC) on vascularization and fibrovascular granulation tissue formation after suspension in a fibrine matrix followed by subcutaneous implantation in a separation chamber in rats. EPC were fluorescently labelled in vitro prior to implantation. After 3, 7 or 14 days, animals were killed followed by explantation and histological analysis of the constructs. Before the end of the experiment, Bandeirea Simplicifolia lectin was intravenously injected to mark the vascular ingrowth into the implanted constructs. The transplanted cells were histologically detected at all time-points and located almost exclusively within the fibrin matrix at day 3 but the number of cells in the clot continuously decreased over day 7 to day 14. Conversely, cells were detected within the newly formed granulation tissue in increasing numbers from day 3 over day 7 to day 14. Transplanted cells were also found in the intermuscular septa. Cell viability was confirmed by use of an EPC clone expressing β-galactosidase. Fluorescence microscopy demonstrated integration of the transplanted cells in newly formed blood vessels within the fibrovascular granulation tissue adjacent to the fibrin clot. Presence of cells in the fibrin clot lead to thicker granulation tissue and an increased blood vessel diameter compared to cell-free controls. Organ standard controls showed presence of the transplanted cells in spleens at day 14 after transplantation. In summary, EPC exhibited biological activity after subcutaneous implantation in a fibrin matrix by migration from the fibrin clot into the granulation tissue and along intermuscular septae, undergoing differentiation into mature endothelial cells and integration into newly formed blood vessels and altering fibrovascular granulation tissue development. EPC may hold promise to modulate blood vessel formation in bioartificial matrices.