Image_9_Vascular Morphogenesis in the Context of Inflammation: Self-Organization in a Fibrin-Based 3D Culture System.PDF

Introduction: New vessel formation requires a continuous and tightly regulated interplay between endothelial cells with cells of the perivascular microenvironment supported by mechanic-physical and chemical cues from the extracellular matrix.

Aim: Here we investigated the potential of small fragments of synovial tissue to form de novo vascular structures in the context of inflammation within three dimensional (3D) fibrin-based matrices in vitro, and assessed the contribution of mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)-immune cell cross-talk to neovascularization considering paracrine signals in a fibrin-based co-culture model.

Material and Methods: Synovial tissue fragments from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and inflammatory osteoarthritis (OA) were cultivated within 3D fibrin matrices for up to 4 weeks. Cellular and structural re-arrangement of the initially acellular matrix were documented by phase contrast microscopy and characterized by confocal laser-scanning microscopy of topographically intact 3D cultures and by immunohistochemistry. MSC-peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) co-cultures in the 3D fibrin system specifically addressed the influence of perivascular cell interactions to neo-vessel formation in a pro-inflammatory microenvironment. Cytokine levels in the supernatants of cultured explant tissues and co-cultures were evaluated by the Bio-Plex cytokine assay and ELISA.

Results: Vascular outgrowth from the embedded tissue into the fibrin matrix was preceded by leukocyte egress from the tissue fragments. Neo-vessels originating from both the embedded sample and from clusters locally formed by emigrated mononuclear cells were consistently associated with CD45+ leukocytes. MSC and PBMC in co-culture formed vasculogenic clusters. Clusters and cells with endothelial phenotype emerging from them, were surrounded by a collagen IV scaffold. No vascular structures were observed in control 3D monocultures of PBMC or MSC. Paracrine signals released by cultured OA tissue fragments corresponded with elevated levels of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, vascular endothelial growth factor and interleukin-6 secreted by MSC-PBMC co-cultures.

Conclusion: Our results show that synovial tissue fragments with immune cell infiltrates have the potential to form new vessels in initially avascular 3D fibrin-based matrices. Cross-talk and cluster formation of MSC with immune cells within the 3D fibrin environment through self-organization and secretion of pro-angiogenic paracrine factors can support neo-vessel growth.