Tailoring vessel morphology in vivo
Gould, Daniel Joseph
Dickinson, Mary E.
Doctor of Philosophy
Tissue engineering is a rapidly growing field which seeks to provide alternatives to organ transplantation in order to address the increasing need for transplantable tissues. One huge hurdle in this effort is the provision of thick tissues; this hurdle exists because currently there is no way to provide prevascularized or rapidly vascularizable scaffolds. To design thick, vascularized tissues, scaffolds are needed that can induce vessels which are similar to the microvasculature found in normal tissues. Angiogenic biomaterials are being developed to provide useful scaffolds to address this problem. In this thesis angiogenic and cell signaling and adhesion factors were incorporated into a biomimetic poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogel system. The composition of these hydrogels was precisely tuned to induce the formation of differing vessel morphology. To sensitively measure induced microvascular morphology and to compare it to native microvessels in several tissues, this thesis developed an image-based tool for quantification of scale invariant and classical measures of vessel morphology. The tool displayed great utility in the comparison of native vessels and remodeling vessels in normal tissues. To utilize this tool to tune the vessel response in vivo , Flk1::myr-mCherry fluorescently labeled mice were implanted with Platelet Derived Growth Factor-BB (PDGF-BB) and basic Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF-2) containing PEG-based hydrogels in a modified mouse corneal angiogenesis assay. Resulting vessels were imaged with confocal microscopy, analyzed with the image based tool created in this thesis to compare morphological differences between treatment groups, and used to create a linear relationship between space filling parameters and dose of growth factor release. Morphological parameters of native mouse tissue vessels were then compared to the linear fit to calculate the dose of growth factors needed to induce vessels similar in morphology to native vessels. Resulting induced vessels did match in morphology to the target vessels. Several other covalently bound signals were then analyzed in the assay and resulting morphology of vessels was compared in several studies which further highlighted the utility of the micropocket assay in conjunction with the image based tool for vessel morphological quantification. Finally, an alternative method to provide rapid vasculature to the constructs, which relied on pre-seeded hydrogels encapsulated endothelial cells was also developed and shown to allow anastamosis between induced host vessels and the implanted construct within 48 hours. These results indicate great promise in the rational design of synthetic, bioactive hydrogels, which can be used as a platform to study microvascular induction for regenerative medicine and angiogenesis research. Future applications of this research may help to develop therapeutic strategies to ameliorate human disease by replacing organs or correcting vessel morphology in the case of ischemic diseases and cancer.