Progress to growing capillaries

Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine researchers have demonstrated a key step on the path to generate implantable tissues with functioning capillaries.

They showed how to use a combination of human endothelial cells and mesenchymal stem cells to initiate a process called tubulogenesis that is crucial to the formation of blood-transporting capillaries.

The work is an important step with fragile endothelial cells (ECs) made from “induced pluripotent stem cells,” or iPSCs, a type of cell that can potentially be made from the cells of any human patient. Because iPSCs can be patient-specific, researchers hope to find ways of using them to generate tissues and replacement organs that can be transplanted without risk of rejection by a patient’s immune system. But the fragility of endothelial cells during laboratory growth has limited the utilization of this critical cell type, which is found in all vasculature.

“Our work has important therapeutic implications because we demonstrate utilization of human cells and the ability to live-monitor their tubulogenesis potential as they form primitive vessel networks,” said study lead author Gisele Calderon, a graduate student in Miller’s Physiologic Systems Engineering and Advanced Materials Laboratory.


Researchers from Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have shown they initiate a process called tubulogenesis that is crucial to the formation of blood-transporting capillaries. In microscopic images taken a different times during a weeklong experiment, researchers tracked the changes in cells (green) and cell nuclei (orange) using fluorescent markers. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

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