Tissue engineering aims at replacing or regenerating tissues lost due to diseases or traumas (Langer and Vacanti, 1993). However, mimicking in vitro the physiological complexity of vascularized tissue is a major obstacle, which possibly contributes to impaired healing in vivo. In higher organisms, native features including the vascular network, the lymphatic networks and interstitial flow promote both mass transport and organ development. Attempts to mimic those features in engineered tissues will lead to more clinically relevant cell-based therapies. Aside from current strategies promoting angiogenesis from the host, an alternative concept termed prevascularization is emerging. It aims at creating a biological vasculature inside an engineered tissue prior to implantation. This vasculature can rapidly anastamose with the host and enhances tissue survival and differentiation. Interestingly, growing evidence supports a role of the vasculature in regulating pattern formation and tissue differentiation. Thus, prevascularized tissues also benefit from an intrinsic contribution of their vascular system to their development. From those early attempts are emerging a body of principles and strategies to grow and maintain, in vitro, those self-assembled biological vascular networks. This could lead to the generation of engineered tissues of more physiologically relevant complexity and improved regenerative potential.
- Tissue engineering
- Vascular system