Bioreactor System to Perfuse Mesentery Microvascular Networks and Study Flow Effects during Angiogenesis

Jessica M. Motherwell, Maximillian Rozenblum, Prasad V.G. Katakam, Walter L. Murfee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A challenge for engineering models of angiogenesis is mimicking the physiological complexity of real microvascular networks. Utilizing an alternative top-down tissue culture approach, our laboratory developed the rat mesentery culture model as an ex vivo platform for investigating the multicellular dynamics involved during angiogenesis within an intact microvascular network. The objective of this study was to introduce physiologically relevant microvascular perfusion in cultured rat mesentery tissues and demonstrate its effect on angiogenesis. Adult male Wistar rat mesenteric tissues were harvested along with the main feeding artery and vein, and then transferred to a custom-designed biochamber for perfusion. The main feeding artery was cannulated with a 30G needle and secured in place with 7-0 suture. Single-pass perfusion was accomplished using a peristaltic pump in series with the biochamber placed inside an incubator set to standard culture conditions (37°C and 5% CO2). Flow passed through the vasculature and drained out of the venous side to be collected in a waste reservoir. Tissues were cultured for 48 h with perfusion in the biochamber (Perfused) in serum-supplemented media to stimulate angiogenesis. Control tissues were cultured in biochambers without perfusion (Static). Injection with FITC-Albumin through the cannulated artery identified the lumens of vessels across the hierarchy of intact microvascular networks and confirmed successful perfusion. Labeling with BSI-lectin identified endothelial cells along microvascular networks and confirmed perfused tissues undergo angiogenesis after 48 h in culture, characterized by an increase in capillary sprouting. The presence of physiologic levels of capillary fluid velocities and associated shear stresses attenuated the angiogenic response compared to static controls. These results demonstrate the effect of perfusion on angiogenesis and establishes the novelty of the rat mesentery culture model as an experimental platform that incorporates perfusion with real microvascular networks in an ex vivo environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-458
Number of pages12
JournalTissue Engineering - Part C: Methods
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • angiogenesis
  • bioreactor
  • shear stress
  • tissue culture model


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