Vascularization is the key challenge in tissue engineering
The main limitation in engineering in vitro tissues is the lack of a sufficient blood vessel system - the vascularization. In vivo almost all tissues are supplied by these endothelial cell coated tubular networks. Current strategies to create vascularized tissues are discussed in this review. The first strategy is based on the endothelial cells and their ability to form new vessels known as neoangiogenesis. Herein prevascularization techniques are compared to approaches in which biomolecules, such as growth factors, cytokines, peptides and proteins as well as cells are applied to generate new vessels. The second strategy is focused on scaffold-based techniques. Naturally-derived scaffolds, which contain vessels, are distinguished from synthetically manufactured matrices. Advantages and pitfalls of the approaches to create vascularized tissues in vitro are outlined and feasible future strategies are discussed.