In vitro models of angiogenesis are valuable tools for understanding the underlying mechanisms of pathological conditions and for the preclinical evaluation of therapies. Our laboratory developed the rat mesentery culture model as a new tool for investigating mechanistic cell–cell interactions at specific locations across intact blood and lymphatic microvascular networks ex vivo. The objective of this study was to report a method for evaluating the effect of aging on human stem cell differentiation into pericytes during angiogenesis in cultured microvascular networks. DiI labeled exogenous stem cells were seeded onto harvested adult Wistar rat mesenteric tissues and cultured in alpha-MEM + 1% serum for up to 5 days according to four experimental groups: (1) adult human adipose–derived stem cells (hASCs), (2) aged hASCs, (3) adult human bone marrow-derived stem cells (hBMSCs), and (4) aged hBMSCs. Angiogenesis per experimental group was supported by observation of increased vessel density and capillary sprouting. For each tissue per experimental group, a subset of cells was observed in typical pericyte location wrapped along blood vessels. Stem cell differentiation into pericytes was supported by the adoption of elongated pericyte morphology along endothelial cells and positive NG2 labeling. The percentage of cells in pericyte locations was not significantly different across the experimental groups, suggesting that aged mesenchymal stem cells are able to retain their differentiation capacity. Our results showcase an application of the rat mesentery culture model for aging research and the evaluation of stem cell fate within intact microvascular networks.
- Biomimetic model
- Stem cell