Spatial control of self-organizing vascular networks with programmable aptamer-tethered growth factor photopatterning

Deepti Rana, Prasanna Padmanaban, Malin Becker, Fabian Stein, Jeroen Leijten, Bart Koopman, Jeroen Rouwkema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Given the dynamic nature of engineered vascular networks within biofabricated tissue analogues, it is instrumental to have control over the constantly evolving biochemical cues within synthetic matrices throughout tissue remodeling. Incorporation of pro-angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF165) specific aptamers into cell-instructive polymer networks is shown to be pivotal for spatiotemporally controlling the local bioactivity of VEGF that selectively elicit specific cell responses. To harness this effect and quantitatively unravel its spatial resolution, herein, bicomponent micropatterns consisting of VEGF165 specific aptamer-functionalized gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) (aptamer regions) overlaid with pristine GelMA regions using visible-light photoinitiators (Ru/SPS) were fabricated via two-step photopatterning approach. For the 3D co-culture study, human umbilical vein-derived endothelial cells and mesenchymal stromal cells were used as model cell types. Bicomponent micropatterns with spatially defined spacings (300/500/800 μm) displayed high aptamer retention, aptamerfluorescent complementary sequence (CSF) molecular recognition and VEGF sequestration localized within patterned aptamer regions. Stiffness gradient at the interface of aptamer and GelMA regions was observed with high modulus in aptamer region followed by low stiffness GelMA regions. Leveraging aptamer-tethered VEGF's dynamic affinity interactions with CS that upon hybridization facilitates triggered VEGF release, co-culture studies revealed unique characteristics of aptamer-tethered VEGF to form spatially defined luminal vascular networks covered with filopodia-like structures in vitro (spatial control) and highlights their ability to control network properties including orientation over time using CS as an external trigger (temporal control). Moreover, the comparison of single and double exposed regions within micropatterns revealed differences in cell behavior among both regions. Specifically, the localized aptamer-tethered VEGF within single exposed aptamer regions exhibited higher cellular alignment within the micropatterns till d5 of culture. Taken together, this study highlights the potential of photopatterned aptamer-tethered VEGF to spatiotemporally regulate vascular morphogenesis as a tool for controlling vascular remodeling in situ.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100551
Number of pages16
JournalMaterials Today Bio
Early online date20 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


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