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Vol. 181, No. 2, 2005
Issue release date: March 2006

Development and Characterization of a Spheroidal Coculture Model of Endothelial Cells and Fibroblasts for Improving Angiogenesis in Tissue Engineering

Wenger A. · Kowalewski N. · Stahl A. · Mehlhorn A.T. · Schmal H. · Stark G.B. · Finkenzeller G.
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Abstract

Neovascularization is a critical step in tissue engineering applications since implantation of voluminous grafts without sufficient vascularity results in hypoxic cell death of central tissues. We have developed a three-dimensional spheroidal coculture system consisting of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and human primary fibroblasts (hFBs) to improve angiogenesis in tissue engineering applications. Morphological analysis of cryosections from HUVEC/hFB cospheroids revealed a characteristic temporal and spatial organization with HUVECs located in the center of the cospheroid and a peripheral localization of fibroblasts. In coculture spheroids, the level of apoptosis of endothelial cells was strongly decreased upon cocultivation with fibroblasts. Collagen-embedded HUVEC spheroids develop numerous lumenized capillary-like sprouts. This was also apparent for HUVEC/hFB cospheroids, albeit to a lesser extent. Quantification of cumulative sprout length revealed an approximately 35% reduction in endothelial cell sprouting upon cocultivation with fibroblasts in cospheroids. The slight reduction in endothelial cell sprouting was not mediated by a paracrine mechanism but is most likely due to the formation of heterogenic cell contacts between HUVECs and hFBs within the cospheroid. The model system introduced in this study is suitable for the development of a preformed lumenized capillary-like network ex vivo and may therefore be useful for improving angiogenesis in in vivo tissue engineering applications.



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