Evaluation of a miniaturized biologically vascularized scaffold in vitro and in vivo
In tissue engineering, the generation and functional maintenance of dense voluminous tissues is mainly restricted due to insufficient nutrient supply. Larger three-dimensional constructs, which exceed the nutrient diffusion limit become necrotic and/or apoptotic in long-term culture if not provided with an appropriate vascularization. Here, we established protocols for the generation of a pre-vascularized biological scaffold with intact arterio-venous capillary loops from rat intestine, which is decellularized under preservation of the feeding and draining vascular tree. Vessel integrity was proven by marker expression, media/blood reflow and endothelial LDL uptake. In vitro maintenance persisted up to 7 weeks in a bioreactor system allowing a stepwise reconstruction of fully vascularized human tissues and successful in vivo implantation for up to 4 weeks, although with time-dependent decrease of cell viability. The vascularization of the construct lead to a 1.5× increase in cellular drug release compared to a conventional static culture in vitro. For the first time, we performed proof-of-concept studies demonstrating that 3D tissues can be maintained within a miniaturized vascularized scaffold in vitro and successfully implanted after re-anastomosis to the intrinsic blood circulation in vivo. We hypothesize that this technology could serve as a powerful platform technology in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.