Co-culture systems for vascularization - Learning from nature

C. James Kirkpatrick, Sabine Fuchs, Ronald E. Unger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


The endothelial cell (EC) is practically ubiquitous in the human body and forms the inner cellular lining of the entire cardiovascular system. Following tissue injury, the microcirculation becomes the stage for both the inflammatory response and the subsequent healing reaction to restore physiological function to the damaged tissue. The advent of the multidisciplinary field of Regenerative Medicine (RegMed), of which Tissue Engineering (TE) and drug delivery using modern stimuli-responsive or interactive biomaterials are important components, has opened up new approaches to the acceleration of the healing response. A central and rate-limiting role in the latter is played by the process of vascularization or neovascularization, so that it is not surprising that in RegMed concepts have been developed for the drug- and gene-delivery of potent stimuli such as vascular-endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to promote neovessel development. However, not all of these novel materials can be tested in vivo, and in vitro co-culture model systems using human primary cells are being developed to pre-evaluate and determine which of the RegMed concepts exhibit the most promising potential for success after implantation. This review describes some of the growing number of in vitro co-cultures model systems that are being used to study cell-cell and cell-material interactions at the cellular and molecular levels to determine which materials are best suited to integrate into the host, promote a rapid vascularization and fit into the regenerative process without disturbing or slowing the normal healing steps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-299
Number of pages9
JournalAdvanced Drug Delivery Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - 30 Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the generous support from the EU NoE Project , EXPERTISSUES and the BMBF (German-Chinese cooperation). Thanks are also expressed to Prof. Rui Reis (Univ. Minho, Portugal), Prof. Claudio Migliaresi (Univ. Trento, Italy) and our respective teams for their excellent cooperation in the multidisciplinary projects in the presented work from the REPAIR-lab.


  • Co-culture
  • Endothelial
  • Osteoblast
  • Regeneration
  • Tissue engineering
  • Vascularization


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