"Creating 3D Microvascular Networks in vitro"
Cell populations exhibit various types of emergent behaviors, even in a homogeneous cell population. Our studies are aimed at understanding how emergent properties arise, and how they might be controlled. Present studies focus on the formation of vascular networks in vitro. Microfluidic systems have been created that permit the study of vascular sprouting under the action of gradients in growth factors or pressure. New results demonstrate that (1) transendothelial flow can act as an angiogenic “switch,” regulating vascular sprouting, (2) that functional vascular networks can be formed bridging across gel regions approximately 1 mm wide, and (3) that these networks can be regulated by variations in matrix stiffness and by “feeder cells” suspended in alginate beads. These studies have important implications to tumor angiogenesis and biological machines that require a vascular supply.