Cyclic strain disrupts endothelial network formation on Matrigel
Most forms of tissue healing depend critically on revascularisation. In soft tissues and in vitro, mechanical stimuli have been shown to promote vessel-forming activity. However, in bone defects, increased interfragmentary motion impairs vascular regeneration. Because these effects seem contradictory, we aimed to determine whether a range of mechanical stimuli exists in which angiogenesis is favoured. A series of cyclic strain magnitudes were applied to a Matrigel-based “tube formation” assay and the total lengths of networks formed by human microvascular endothelial cells measured at 24 h. Network lengths were reduced at all strain levels, compared to unstretched controls. However, the levels of pro-angiogenic matrix metalloproteases-2 and -9 in the corresponding conditioned media were unchanged by strain, and vascular endothelial growth factor was uniformly elevated in stretched conditions. By repeating the assay with the addition of conditioned media from mesenchymal stem cells cultivated in similar conditions, paracrine stimuli were shown to increase network lengths, but not to alter the negative effect of cyclic stretching. Together, these results demonstrate that directly applied periodic strains can inhibit endothelial organisation in vitro, and suggest that this may be due to physical disruption rather than biochemical modulation. Most importantly, the results indicate that the straining of endothelial cells and their assembly into vascular-like structures must be studied simultaneously to adequately characterise the mechanical influence on vessel formation.
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