Stem Cell Reviews and Reports

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 218–240 | Cite as

Cellular Based Strategies for Microvascular Engineering

  • Srinivas V. KoduruEmail author
  • Ashley N. Leberfinger
  • Denis Pasic
  • Anoosha Forghani
  • Shane Lince
  • Daniel J. Hayes
  • Ibrahim T. Ozbolat
  • Dino J. RavnicEmail author


Vascularization is a major hurdle in complex tissue and organ engineering. Tissues greater than 200 μm in diameter cannot rely on simple diffusion to obtain nutrients and remove waste. Therefore, an integrated vascular network is required for clinical translation of engineered tissues. Microvessels have been described as <150 μm in diameter, but clinically they are defined as <1 mm. With new advances in super microsurgery, vessels less than 1 mm can be anastomosed to the recipient circulation. However, this technical advancement still relies on the creation of a stable engineered microcirculation that is amenable to surgical manipulation and is readily perfusable. Microvascular engineering lays on the crossroads of microfabrication, microfluidics, and tissue engineering strategies that utilize various cellular constituents. Early research focused on vascularization by co-culture and cellular interactions, with the addition of angiogenic growth factors to promote vascular growth. Since then, multiple strategies have been utilized taking advantage of innovations in additive manufacturing, biomaterials, and cell biology. However, the anatomy and dynamics of native blood vessels has not been consistently replicated. Inconsistent results can be partially attributed to cell sourcing which remains an enigma for microvascular engineering. Variations of endothelial cells, endothelial progenitor cells, and stem cells have all been used for microvascular network fabrication along with various mural cells. As each source offers advantages and disadvantages, there continues to be a lack of consensus. Furthermore, discord may be attributed to incomplete understanding about cell isolation and characterization without considering the microvascular architecture of the desired tissue/organ.


Endothelial progenitor cells EPCs Adipose tissue ADSCs CD34+ Microvessel fragments Angiogenesis Vasculogenesis Vascularization iPSCs Adult stem cells MSCs 



Adipose derived EPC




Arteriovenous loop


Basic fibroblast growth factor


Bone marrow


Delta-like 4


Dermal microvascular endothelial cell


Embryoid body


Endothelial cell


Endothelial colony forming cell


Extracellular membrane


Endothelial nitric oxide synthase


Endothelial progenitor cell


Embryonic stem cell


Fibroblast growth factor


Fetal liver kinase-1




Hepatocyte growth factor


Hypoxia-inducible factor


Human umbilical vein umbilical cell


Induced pluripotent stem cell




Microvessel fragment


Matrix metalloproteinase


Mesenchymal stem cell


Normal human lung fibroblast






Platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule


Poly ethylene glycol




Poly n-isopropyl acrylamide


Smooth muscle actin


Stromal vascular fraction


Tri-calcium phosphate


Transforming growth factor


Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase


Vascular endothelial


Vascular endothelial growth factor


Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor


von Willebrand factor



This work was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under BIRCWH award # K12HD055882 “Career Development Program in Women’s Health Research at Penn State”, the American Association of Plastic Surgeons Research Scholar Award, and a Penn State Junior Faculty Research Scholar Award (PA Tobacco Settlement Fund).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

Authors declare no conflict of interests.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Irvin S. Zubar Plastic Surgery Research LaboratoryPenn State College of MedicineHersheyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic SurgeryPenn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical CenterHersheyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical Engineering, Materials Research Institute, The Huck Institutes of Life SciencesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Engineering Science and MechanicsThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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