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Jaana Schneider, Marianne Pultar, and Wolfgang Holnthoner

Upon implantation, engineered tissues rely on the supply with oxygen and nutrients as well as the drainage of interstitial fluid. This prerequisite still represents one of the current challenges in the engineering and regeneration of tissues. Recently, different vascularization strategies have been developed. Besides technical approaches like 3D printing or laser processing and de-/recelluarization of natural scaffolds, mainly co-cultures of endothelial cells (ECs) with supporting cell types are being used. This mini-review provides a brief overview of different co-culture systems for the engineering of blood and lymphatic microvascular networks.

Open access

Ebba Brakenhielm and Vincent Richard

Despite tremendous efforts in preclinical research over the last decades, the clinical translation of therapeutic angiogenesis to grow stable and functional blood vessels in patients with ischemic diseases continues to prove challenging. In this mini review, we briefly present the current main approaches applied to improve pro-angiogenic therapies. Specific examples from research on therapeutic cardiac angiogenesis and arteriogenesis will be discussed, and finally some suggestions for future therapeutic developments will be presented.

Open access

Tatiane Gorski and Katrien De Bock

Skeletal muscle relies on an ingenious network of blood vessels, which ensures optimal oxygen and nutrient supply. An increase in muscle vascularization is an early adaptive event to exercise training, but the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying exercise-induced blood vessel formation are not completely clear. In this review, we provide a concise overview on how exercise-induced alterations in muscle metabolism can evoke metabolic changes in endothelial cells (ECs) that drive muscle angiogenesis. In skeletal muscle, angiogenesis can occur via sprouting and splitting angiogenesis and is dependent on vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling. In the resting muscle, VEGF levels are controlled by the estrogen-related receptor γ (ERRγ). Upon exercise, the transcriptional coactivator peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α (PGC1α) orchestrates several adaptations to endurance exercise within muscle fibers and simultaneously promotes transcriptional activation of Vegf expression and increased muscle capillary density. While ECs are highly glycolytic and change their metabolism during sprouting angiogenesis in development and disease, a similar role for EC metabolism in exercise-induced angiogenesis in skeletal muscle remains to be elucidated. Nonetheless, recent studies have illustrated the importance of endothelial hydrogen sulfide and sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) activity for exercise-induced angiogenesis, suggesting that EC metabolic reprogramming may be fundamental in this process. We hypothesize that the exercise-induced angiogenic response can also be modulated by metabolic crosstalk between muscle and the endothelium. Defining the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for skeletal muscle angiogenesis in response to exercise will yield valuable insight into metabolic regulation as well as the determinants of exercise performance.

Open access

Jarkko P Hytönen, Olli Leppänen, Jouni Taavitsainen, Petra Korpisalo, Svetlana Laidinen, Kari Alitalo, Jonas Wadström, Tuomas T Rissanen, and Seppo Ylä-Herttuala


Prosthetic vascular grafts in humans characteristically lack confluent endothelialization regardless of the duration of implantation. Use of high-porosity grafts has been proposed as a way to induce endothelialization through transgraft capillarization, although early experiments failed to show increased healing in man.


We hypothesized that transduction of tissues around the prosthetic conduit with vectors encoding VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR2) ligands would augment transinterstitial capillarization and induce luminal endothelialization of high-porosity ePTFE grafts.


Fifty-two NZW rabbits received 87 ePTFE uni- or bilateral end-to-end interposition grafts in carotid arteries. Rabbits were randomized to local therapy with adenoviruses encoding AdVEGF-A165, AdVEGF-A109 or control AdLacZ and analyzed at 6 and 28 days after surgery by contrast-enhanced ultrasound and histology.


AdVEGF-A165 and AdVEGF-A109 dramatically increased perfusion in perigraft tissues at 6 days (14.2 ± 3.6 or 16.7 ± 2.6-fold increases, P < 0.05 and P < 0.01). At 28 days, the effect was no longer significantly higher than baseline. At 6 days, no luminal endothelialization was observed in any of the groups. At 28 days, AdVEGF-A109- and AdVEGF-A165-treated animals showed enhanced ingrowth of transinterstitial capillaries (66.0 ± 13.7% and 77.4 ± 15.7% of graft thickness vs 44.7 ± 24.4% in controls, P < 0.05) and improved luminal endothelialization (11.2 ± 26.3% and 11.4 ± 22.2%, AdVEGF-A109 and AdVEGF-A165 vs 0% in controls, P < 0.05). No increased stenosis was observed in the treatment groups as compared to LacZ controls.


This study suggests that transient local overexpression of VEGFR2 ligands in the peri-implant tissues at the time of graft implantation is a novel strategy to increase endothelialization of high-porosity ePTFE vascular grafts and improve the patency of small-diameter vascular prostheses.