The murine spinotrapezius is a thin, superficial skeletal support muscle that extends from T3 to L4, and is easily accessible via dorsal skin incision. Its unique anatomy makes the spinotrapezius useful for investigation of ischemic injury and subsequent microvascular remodeling. Here, we demonstrate an arteriolar ligation model in the murine spinotrapezius muscle that was developed by our research team and previously published1-3. For certain vulnerable mouse strains, such as the Balb/c mouse, this ligation surgery reliably creates skeletal muscle ischemia and serves as a platform for investigating therapies that stimulate revascularization. Methods of assessment are also demonstrated, including the use of intravital and confocal microscopy. The spinotrapezius is well suited to such imaging studies due to its accessibility (superficial dorsal anatomy) and relative thinness (60-200 μm). The spinotrapezius muscle can be mounted en face, facilitating imaging of whole-muscle microvascular networks without histological sectioning. We describe the use of intravital microscopy to acquire metrics following a functional vasodilation procedure; specifically, the increase in arterilar diameter as a result of muscle contraction. We also demonstrate the procedures for harvesting and fixing the tissues, a necessary precursor to immunostaining studies and the use of confocal microscopy.
Biomedical Engineering; Issue 73; Medicine; Anatomy; Physiology; Surgery; Immunology; Hematology; Microvessels; Capillaries; Arterioles; Venules; Vascular Diseases; Ischemia; spinotrapezius; peripheral vascular disease; functional vasodilation; arteriolar ligation; vessels; circulation; confocal microscopy; animal model
We examined the effects of exogenously delivered thrombin on cell recruitment in skeletal muscle and the formation of new collateral arterioles in the microvasculature in response to ligation-induced ischemia.
Thrombin or vehicle was locally applied to both ligated and non-operated Balb/c spinotrapezius muscles which were harvested after three or seven days, imaged using confocal microscopy, and analyzed.
Thrombin treatment resulted in accelerated arterialization of collateral capillaries and accelerated tissue reperfusion in ischemic muscles. Uninjured muscle treated with thrombin displayed increased vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 expression on arteriole and venule endothelium, increased expression of smooth muscle α-actin on capillary-sized vessels, increased infiltration by CD11b+ leukocytes, and mast cell infiltration and degranulation.
Exogenous delivery of thrombin enhances microvascular collateral development in response to ischemic insult and accelerates tissue reperfusion. Elicited responses from multiple cell types likely contribute to these effects.
thrombin; arteriogenesis; collateral vessel; ischemia
The canonical Wnt signaling pathway, heavily studied in development and cancer, has recently been implicated in microvascular growth with the use of developmental and in vitro models. To date, however, no study exists showing the effects of perturbing the canonical Wnt pathway in a complete microvascular network undergoing physiological remodeling in vivo. Our objective was to investigate the effects of canonical Wnt inhibition on the microvascular remodeling of adult rats.
Canonical Wnt inhibitor DKK-1, Wnt inhibitor sFRP-1, BSA or saline was superfused onto the exteriorized mesenteric windows of 300g adult female Sprague-Dawley rats for 20 minutes. Three days following surgery, mesenteric windows were imaged intravitally and harvested for immunofluorescence staining with smooth muscle alpha-actin and BRDU.
We observed prominent differences in the response of the mesenteric microvasculature amongst the various treatment groups. Significant increases in hemorrhage area, vascular density, and draining vessel diameter were observed in windows treated with Wnt inhibitors as compared to control-treated windows. Additionally, confocal imaging analysis showed significant increases in proliferating cells as well as evidence of proliferating smooth muscle cells along venules.
Together, our results suggest that canonical Wnt inhibition plays an important role in microvascular remodeling, specifically venular remodeling.
Wnt; Dickkopf-1 (DKK-1); secreted frizzled-related protein 1 (sFRP-1); venular remodeling; hemorrhage
Over the past two decades, a number of mathematical and computational models have been developed to study different aspects of angiogenesis that span the spatial and temporal scales encompassed by this complex process. For example, models have been built to investigate how growth factors and receptors signal endothelial cell proliferation, how groups of endothelial cells assemble into individual vessels, and how tumors recruit the ingrowth of whole microvascular networks. A prudent question to pose is: “what have we learned from these models?” This review aims to answer this question as it pertains to angiogenesis in the context of normal physiological growth, tumorigenesis, wound healing, tissue engineering, and the design of therapeutic strategies. We also provide a framework for parsing angiogenesis models into categories, according to the type of modeling approach used, the spatial and temporal scales simulated, and the overarching question being posed to the model. Finally, this review introduces some of the simplification strategies and assumptions used in model building, discusses model validation, and makes recommendations for application of modeling approaches to unresolved questions in the field.
angiogenesis; computational modeling; mathematical modeling; validation; multi-scale; validation; systems biology
Currently, little is known about the response of the adult retinal microvasculature to hypoxia. To test the hypothesis that chronic systemic hypoxia induces angiogenesis and microvascular remodeling in the adult mouse retina, adult 10-wk old female C57Bl/6 mice were exposed to 10% O2 for 2 or 3 weeks. After hypoxia exposure, retinas were harvested, whole-mounted, and processed for immunohistochemistry. Retinas were stained with lectin, anti-smooth muscle α-actin antibody, and anti-NG2 antibody to visualize microvascular networks and their cellular components. Confocal microscopy was used to obtain images of superficial retinal networks. Images were analyzed to assess vessel diameter, vascular length density, branch point density, and the presence of vascular loops, a hallmark of intussusceptive angiogenesis. Both 2 and 3 weeks of hypoxia exposure resulted in a significant increase in the diameters of arterioles and post-arteriole capillaries (p < 0.003). After 3 weeks of hypoxia, vascular length density and branch point density were significantly increased in retinas exposed to hypoxia as compared to normoxic controls (p < 0.001). The number of vascular loops in the superficial retinal networks was significantly greater in hypoxia-exposed retinas (p ≤ 0.001). Our results demonstrate, for the first time, intussusceptive angiogenesis as a tissue-level mechanism of vascular adaptation to chronic systemic hypoxia in the adult mouse retina and contribute to our understanding of hypoxia-induced angiogenesis and microvascular remodeling in the adult animal.
angiogenesis; hypoxia; intussusceptive microvascular growth; microvascular remodeling; mouse; retina
A growing body of literature suggests that human adipose-derived stromal cells (hASCs) possess developmental plasticity both in vitro and in vivo, and might represent a viable cell source for therapeutic angiogenesis and tissue engineering. We investigate their phenotypic similarity to perivascular cell types, ability to contribute to in vivo microvascular remodeling, and ability to modulate vascular stability. We evaluated hASC surface expression of vascular and stem/progenitor cell markers in vitro, as well as any effects of PDGF-BB and VEGF165 on in vitro hASC migration. To ascertain in vivo behavior of hASCs in an angiogenic environment, hASCs were isolated, expanded in culture, labeled with a fluorescent marker, and injected into adult nude rat mesenteries that were stimulated to undergo microvascular remodeling. 10, 30, and 60 days after injection, tissues from anesthetized animals were harvested and processed with immunohistochemical techniques to determine hASC quantity, positional fate in relation to microvessels, and expression of endothelial and perivascular cell markers. After 60 days, 29% of hASCs exhibited perivascular morphologies compared to 11% of injected human lung fibroblasts. hASCs exhibiting perivascular morphologies also expressed markers characteristic of vascular pericytes: smooth muscle α-actin (SMA) (10%) and NG2 (8%). In tissues treated with hASCs, vascular density was significantly increased over age-matched controls lacking hASCs. This study demonstrates that hASCs express pericyte lineage markers in vivo and in vitro, exhibit increased migration in response to PDGF-BB in vitro, exhibit perivascular morphology when injected in vivo, and contribute to increases in microvascular density during angiogenesis by migrating toward vessels.
adipose-derived stromal cells; microcirculation; pericyte; angiogenesis
With every breath, the dynamically changing mechanical pressures must work in unison with the cells and soft tissue structures of the lung to permit air to efficiently traverse the airway tree and undergo gas exchange in the alveoli. The influence of mechanics on cell and tissue function is becoming apparent, raising the question: how does the airway tree co-exist within its mechanical environment to maintain normal cell function throughout its branching structure of diminishing dimensions? We introduce a new mechanical design principle for the conducting airway tree in which mechanotransduction at the level of cells is driven to orchestrate airway wall structural changes that can best maintain a preferred mechanical microenvironment. To support this principle, we report in vitro radius-transmural pressure relations for a range of airway radii obtained from healthy bovine lungs and model the data using a strain energy function together with a thick-walled cylinder description. From this framework, we estimate circumferential stresses and incremental Young's moduli throughout the airway tree. Our results indicate that the conducting airways consistently operate within a preferred mechanical homeostatic state, termed mechanical homeostasis, that is characterized by a narrow range of circumferential stresses and Young's moduli. This mechanical homeostatic state is maintained for all airways throughout the tree via airway wall dimensional and mechanical relationships. As a consequence, cells within the airway walls throughout the airway tree experience similar oscillatory strains during breathing that are much smaller than previously thought. Finally, we discuss the potential implications of how the maintenance of mechanical homeostasis, while facilitating healthy tissue-level alterations necessary for maturation, may lead to airway wall structural changes capable of chronic asthma.
With every breath, mechanical pressures change in the lung and permit air to efficiently traverse the airway tree and undergo gas exchange. These pressure variations also influence cell and tissue function, raising the question: how does the airway tree co-exist within its mechanical environment to maintain normal cell function throughout its branching structure of diminishing dimensions? We introduce a new mechanical design principle for the conducting airway tree in which mechanotransduction, the process that converts mechanical forces on cells to biochemical signals, is driven to orchestrate tissue-level structural changes that can best restore a preferred mechanical microenvironment; a concept termed mechanical homeostasis. We report in vitro mechanical properties for a range of airway sizes and present a mathematical model that describes the data. Our results indicate that airways indeed consistently operate within a preferred mechanical homeostatic state. We further describe how this mechanical homeostasis while facilitating healthy tissue-level alterations necessary for maturation can inadvertently lead to airway wall structural changes capable of chronic asthma.
There is a need to develop multiscale models of vascular adaptations to understand tissue level manifestations of cellular level mechanisms. Continuum based biomechanical models are well suited for relating blood pressures and flows to stress-mediated changes in geometry and properties, but less so for describing underlying mechanobiological processes. Discrete stochastic agent based models are well suited for representing biological processes at a cellular level, but not for describing tissue level mechanical changes. We present here a conceptually new approach to facilitate the coupling of continuum and agent based models. Because of ubiquitous limitations in both the tissue- and cell-level data from which one derives constitutive relations for continuum models and rule-sets for agent based models, we suggest that model verification should enforce congruency across scales. That is, multiscale model parameters initially determined from data sets representing different scales should be refined, when possible, to ensure that common outputs are consistent. Potential advantages of this approach are illustrated by comparing simulated aortic responses to a sustained increase in blood pressure predicted by continuum and agent based models both before and after instituting a genetic algorithm to refine 16 objectively bounded model parameters. We show that congruency-based parameter refinement not only yielded increased consistency across scales, it also yielded predictions that are closer to in vivo observations.
Agent Based Model (ABM); Constrained Mixture Model (CMM); Growth and Remodeling; Model Verification
Microvacular network growth and remodeling are critical aspects of wound healing, inflammation, diabetic retinopathy, tumor growth and other disease conditions1, 2. Network growth is commonly attributed to angiogenesis, defined as the growth of new vessels from pre-existing vessels. The angiogenic process is also directly linked to arteriogenesis, defined as the capillary acquisition of a perivascular cell coating and vessel enlargement. Needless to say, angiogenesis is complex and involves multiple players at the cellular and molecular level3. Understanding how a microvascular network grows requires identifying the spatial and temporal dynamics along the hierarchy of a network over the time course of angiogenesis. This information is critical for the development of therapies aimed at manipulating vessel growth.
The exteriorization model described in this article represents a simple, reproducible model for stimulating angiogenesis in the rat mesentery. It was adapted from wound-healing models in the rat mesentery4-7, and is an alternative to stimulate angiogenesis in the mesentery via i.p. injections of pro-angiogenic agents8, 9. The exteriorization model is attractive because it requires minimal surgical intervention and produces dramatic, reproducible increases in capillary sprouts, vascular area and vascular density over a relatively short time course in a tissue that allows for the two-dimensional visualization of entire microvascular networks down to single cell level. The stimulated growth reflects natural angiogenic responses in a physiological environment without interference of foreign angiogenic molecules. Using immunohistochemical labeling methods, this model has been proven extremely useful in identifying novel cellular events involved in angiogenesis. Investigators can readily correlate the angiogenic metrics during the time course of remodeling with time specific dynamics, such as cellular phenotypic changes or cellular interactions4, 5, 7, 10, 11.
Cellular Biology; Issue 63; mesentery; rat; angiogenesis; microcirculation; microvascular; remodeling
Vascular obstructive events can be partially compensated for by remodeling processes that increase vessel diameter and collateral tortuosity. However, methods for visualizing remodeling events in vivo and with temporal comparisons from the same animal remain elusive.
Using a novel infrared conjugated polyethylene glycol dye, we investigated the possibility of intravital vascular imaging of the mouse ear before and after ligation of the primary feeder artery. For comparison, we used two different mouse models known to have impaired vascular remodeling post ligation (i.e. aged and PAI-1−/− mice). The results obtained with the infrared dye were confirmed using immunofluorescence labeling of the ear microvasculature with confocal microscopy.
After ligation, increases in vessel diameter (between 10% and 60%) and tortuosity (approximately 15%) were observed in C57Bl/6 mice using both the infrared dye and the immunofluorescence technique. However, aged C57Bl/6 and PAI-1−/− mice did not show vascular remodeling following ligation.
Vascular remodeling can be visualized and accurately quantified using a new infrared dye in vivo. This analysis technique could be generally employed for quantitative investigations of changes in vascular remodeling.
vascular remodeling; in vivo imaging; plasminogen activator inhibitor-1; aging
Experimental data indicates that soluble vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor 1 (sFlt-1) modulates the guidance cues provided to sprouting blood vessels by VEGF-A. To better delineate the role of sFlt-1 in VEGF signaling, we have developed an experimentally based computational model. This model describes dynamic spatial transport of VEGF, and its binding to receptors Flt-1 and Flk-1, in a mouse embryonic stem cell model of vessel morphogenesis. The model represents the local environment of a single blood vessel. Our simulations predict that blood vessel secretion of sFlt-1 and increased local sFlt-1 sequestration of VEGF results in decreased VEGF–Flk-1 levels on the sprout surface. In addition, the model predicts that sFlt-1 secretion increases the relative gradient of VEGF–Flk-1 along the sprout surface, which could alter endothelial cell perception of directionality cues. We also show that the proximity of neighboring sprouts may alter VEGF gradients, VEGF receptor binding, and the directionality of sprout growth. As sprout distances decrease, the probability that the sprouts will move in divergent directions increases. This model is a useful tool for determining how local sFlt-1 and VEGF gradients contribute to the spatial distribution of VEGF receptor binding, and can be used in conjunction with experimental data to explore how multi-cellular interactions and relationships between local growth factor gradients drive angiogenesis.
angiogenesis; vascular development; computational model; mathematical model; sFlt-1; VEGF; capillary sprouting
During ischemia, vascular beds in skeletal muscle have been shown to undergo arteriolar remodeling, or arteriogenesis, in order to restore tissue perfusion and function. This process has traditionally been thought to occur predominately in large vessels (diameters > 50 μm), although recent studies showing arteriogenesis in the microcirculation (diameters < 35 μm) following ultrasound-induced microbubble destruction suggest this may occur during skeletal muscle ischemia, as well. Using a surgical model of ischemia that allows en face visualization of microvasculature, we tested the hypothesis that ischemic injury induces arteriolar remodeling in the skeletal muscle microcirculation on the scale of capillary to sub-35 μm diameter arterioles.
Surgical ligations of the main feeding arteriole (70 μm in diameter) to the caudal-half of the spinotrapezius muscle were performed on age- and weight-matched C57BL/6 mice. The microvascular remodeling response to the ischemic insult, including enlargement and formation of new arterioles, as well as degree of vascular branching and collateral formation, were then quantified and compared to contralateral control muscles using intravital and whole-mount confocal microscopy. Immunohistochemical techniques were used to verify the presence of inflammatory cells (monocytes and tissue-resident macrophages; MOMA-2+ or CD11b+), as well as the absence of chronic hypoxia (Hypoxyprobe-1+ kit; Chemicon International).
Five days post-arteriole ligation, ischemic tissue underwent reproducible and localized microvascular remodeling characteristic of arteriogenesis. Using intravital microscopy and examining functional vessels (arterioles and venules) with diameters 15–35 μm, we observed significant increases in vascular density (38%), branching (90%) and collateral development (36.5%). The formation of new arterioles (diameters 6–35 μm) was quantified and significantly increased, as evidenced by expanded smooth-muscle α-actin (24.3%) arteriolar-coverage. However, arcade arteriole (AA) length densities did not significantly increase following ligation. The absence of chronic hypoxia and pronounced vessel tortuosity was also consistently observed.
Ischemic ligations induce arteriolar remodeling responses in the microcirculation (vessel diameters < 35 μm) of the spinotrapezius muscle in the C57BL/6 mouse. Furthermore, the surgical model that allowed this quantification enabled en face analysis of skeletal muscle microvascular network adaptations with single-cell resolution and has the capability to provide investigators with functional and morphometric data on a microscale difficult to achieve using other animal models.
spinotrapezius; hindlimb; animal model; ischemia; arteriogenesis; arterialization; collateral; vascular remodeling; microcirculation; microvessel; hypoxia; arteriole; monocyte; arcade; transverse
Quantification of microvascular network structure is important in a myriad of emerging research fields including microvessel remodeling in response to ischemia and drug therapy, tumor angiogenesis, and retinopathy. To mitigate analyst-specific variation in measurements and to ensure that measurements represent actual changes in vessel network structure and morphology, a reliable and automatic tool for quantifying microvascular network architecture is needed. Moreover, an analysis tool capable of acquiring and processing large data sets will facilitate advanced computational analysis and simulation of microvascular growth and remodeling processes and enable more high throughput discovery. To this end, we have produced an automatic and rapid vessel detection and quantification system using a MATLAB graphical user interface (GUI) that vastly reduces time spent on analysis and greatly increases repeatability. Analysis yields numerical measures of vessel volume fraction, vessel length density, fractal dimension (a measure of tortuosity), and radii of murine vascular networks. Because our GUI is open sourced to all, it can be easily modified to measure parameters such as percent coverage of non-endothelial cells, number of loops in a vascular bed, amount of perfusion and two-dimensional branch angle. Importantly, the GUI is compatible with standard fluorescent staining and imaging protocols, but also has utility analyzing brightfield vascular images, obtained, for example, in dorsal skinfold chambers. A manually measured image can be typically completed in 20 minutes to 1 hour. In stark comparison, using our GUI, image analysis time is reduced to around 1 minute. This drastic reduction in analysis time coupled with increased repeatability makes this tool valuable for all vessel research especially those requiring rapid and reproducible results, such as anti-angiogenic drug screening.
Agent-based models (ABMs) represent a novel approach to study and simulate complex mechano chemo-biological responses at the cellular level. Such models have been used to simulate a variety of emergent responses in the vasculature, including angiogenesis and vasculogenesis. Although not used previously to study large vessel adaptations, we submit that ABMs will prove equally useful in such studies when combined with well-established continuum models to form multi-scale models of tissue-level phenomena. In order to couple agent-based and continuum models, however, there is a need to ensure that each model faithfully represents the best data available at the relevant scale and that there is consistency between models under baseline conditions. Toward this end, we describe the development and verification of an ABM of endothelial and smooth muscle cell responses to mechanical stimuli in a large artery. A refined rule-set is proposed based on a broad literature search, a new scoring system for assigning confidence in the rules, and a parameter sensitivity study. To illustrate the utility of these new methods for rule selection, as well as the consistency achieved with continuum-level models, we simulate the behavior of a mouse aorta during homeostasis and in response to both transient and sustained increases in pressure. The simulated responses depend on the altered cellular production of seven key mitogenic, synthetic, and proteolytic biomolecules, which in turn control the turnover of intramural cells and extracellular matrix. These events are responsible for gross changes in vessel wall morphology. This new ABM is shown to be appropriately stable under homeostatic conditions, insensitive to transient elevations in blood pressure, and responsive to increased intramural wall stress in hypertension.
agent-based modeling; constrained mixture modeling; hypertension; vascular remodeling; multi-scale modeling
Using eight newly generated models relevant to addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV, heart disease, malaria, and tuberculosis, we show that systems analysis of small (4–25 species), bounded protein signaling modules rapidly generates new quantitative knowledge from published experimental research. For example, our models show that tumor sclerosis complex (TSC) inhibitors may be more effective than the rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors currently used to treat cancer, that HIV infection could be more effectively blocked by increasing production of the human innate immune response protein APOBEC3G, rather than targeting HIV’s viral infectivity factor (Vif), and how peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα) agonists used to treat dyslipidemia would most effectively stimulate PPARα signaling if drug design were to increase agonist nucleoplasmic concentration, as opposed to increasing agonist binding affinity for PPARα. Comparative analysis of system-level properties for all eight modules showed that a significantly higher proportion of concentration parameters fall in the top 15th percentile sensitivity ranking than binding affinity parameters. In infectious disease modules, host networks were significantly more sensitive to virulence factor concentration parameters compared to all other concentration parameters. This work supports the future use of this approach for informing the next generation of experimental roadmaps for known diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10439-010-0208-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Systems biology; Human disease; Protein signaling; Comparative meta-analysis; Sensitivity analysis
Chronic and acute ischemic diseases – peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, stroke – result in tissue damage unless blood flow is maintained or restored in a timely manner. Mice of different strains recover from arteriolar ligation (by increasing collateral blood flow) at different speeds. We quantify the spatio-termporal patterns of microvascular network remodeling following arteriolar ligation in different mouse strains to better understand interindividual variability.
Whole-muscle spinotrapezius microvascular networks of mouse strains C57Bl/6, Balb/c and CD1 were imaged using confocal microscopy following ligation of feeding arterioles.
Baseline arteriolar structures of C57Bl/6 and Balb/c mice feature heavily ramified arcades and unconnected dendritic trees, respectively. This network angioarchitecture identifies ischemia-protected and ischemia-vulnerable tissues: unlike C57Bl/6, downstream capillary perfusion in Balb/c spinotrapezius is lost following ligation. Perfusion recovery requires arterialization (expansion and investment of mural cells) of a subset of capillaries forming a new low-resistance collateral pathway between arteriolar trees. Outbred CD1 exhibit either Balb/c-like or C57Bl/6-like spinotrapezius angioarchitecture, predictive of response to arteriolar ligation.
This collateral capillary arterialization process may explain the reported longer time required for blood flow recovery in Balb/c hindlimb ischemia, as low-resistance blood flow pathways along capillary conduits must be formed (‘arterialization’) before reperfusion.
Human adipose-derived stromal cells (hASCs) were evaluated in vitro for their ability to bind vascular adhesion and extracellular matrix proteins in order to arrest (firmly adhere) under physiological flow conditions. hASCs were flowed through a parallel plate flow chamber containing substrates presenting immobilized Type I Collagen, fibronectin, E-selectin, L-selectin, P-selectin, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), or intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) under static and laminar flow conditions (wall shear stress = 1 dyn/cm2). hASCs were able to firmly adhere to Type I Collagen, fibronectin, VCAM-1, and ICAM-1 substrates, but not to any of the selectins. Pretreatment with hypoxia increased the ability of hASCs isolated by liposuction to adhere to VCAM-1 and ICAM-1, but this effect was not seen in cells isolated by tissue excision. These results indicate that hASCs possess the ability to adhere key adhesion proteins, illustrate the importance of hASC harvest procedure, and suggest mechanisms for homing in a setting where interaction with inflamed or injured tissue is necessary.
Adipose-derived stromal cells; hypoxia; liposuction; parallel plate flow chamber; adhesion cascade
Intravenous delivery of human adipose-derived stromal cells (hASCs) is a promising option for the treatment of ischemia. After delivery, hASCs that reside and persist in the injured extravascular space have been shown to aid recovery of tissue perfusion and function, although low rates of incorporation currently limit the safety and efficacy of these therapies. We submit that a better understanding of the trafficking of therapeutic hASCs through the microcirculation is needed to address this and that selective control over their homing (organ- and injury-specific) may be possible by targeting bottlenecks in the homing process. This process, however, is incredibly complex, which merited the use of computational techniques to speed the rate of discovery. We developed a multicell agent-based model (ABM) of hASC trafficking during acute skeletal muscle ischemia, based on over 150 literature-based rules instituted in Netlogo and MatLab software programs. In silico, trafficking phenomena within cell populations emerged as a result of the dynamic interactions between adhesion molecule expression, chemokine secretion, integrin affinity states, hemodynamics and microvascular network architectures. As verification, the model reasonably reproduced key aspects of ischemia and trafficking behavior including increases in wall shear stress, upregulation of key cellular adhesion molecules expressed on injured endothelium, increased secretion of inflammatory chemokines and cytokines, quantified levels of monocyte extravasation in selectin knockouts, and circulating monocyte rolling distances. Successful ABM verification prompted us to conduct a series of systematic knockouts in silico aimed at identifying the most critical parameters mediating hASC trafficking. Simulations predicted the necessity of an unknown selectin-binding molecule to achieve hASC extravasation, in addition to any rolling behavior mediated by hASC surface expression of CD15s, CD34, CD62e, CD62p, or CD65. In vitro experiments confirmed this prediction; a subpopulation of hASCs slowly rolled on immobilized P-selectin at speeds as low as 2 µm/s. Thus, our work led to a fundamentally new understanding of hASC biology, which may have important therapeutic implications.
Ischemic pathologies, such as acute myocardial infarction and peripheral vascular disease, continue to be associated with high morbidities and mortalities. Recently, therapies wherein adult stem cells are injected into the circulation have been shown to increase blood flow and help to restore tissue function following injury. Pre-clinical animal models and human trials have shown successes utilizing this approach, but variable trafficking efficiencies and low incorporation of cells into the injured tissue severely limit effectiveness and may preclude clinical adoption. To address this, we sought to study the complex process of how injected stem cells traffic through the microcirculation and home to sites of injury, in an effort to identify bottlenecks in this process that could be manipulated for therapeutic gain. We developed an agent-based computer model to speed the rate of discovery, and we identified a key cell–cell adhesion interaction that could be targeted to enhance stem cell homing efficiencies during injectable stem cell therapies.
Retinal vasculopathies, including diabetic retinopathy (DR), threaten the vision of over 100 million people. Retinal pericytes are critical for microvascular control, supporting retinal endothelial cells via direct contact and paracrine mechanisms. With pericyte death or loss, endothelial dysfunction ensues, resulting in hypoxic insult, pathologic angiogenesis, and ultimately blindness. Adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) differentiate into pericytes, suggesting they may be useful as a protective and regenerative cellular therapy for retinal vascular disease. In this study, we examine the ability of ASCs to differentiate into pericytes that can stabilize retinal vessels in multiple pre-clinical models of retinal vasculopathy.
We found that ASCs express pericyte-specific markers in vitro. When injected intravitreally into the murine eye subjected to oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR), ASCs were capable of migrating to and integrating with the retinal vasculature. Integrated ASCs maintained marker expression and pericyte-like morphology in vivo for at least 2 months. ASCs injected after OIR vessel destabilization and ablation enhanced vessel regrowth (16% reduction in avascular area). ASCs injected intravitreally before OIR vessel destabilization prevented retinal capillary dropout (53% reduction). Treatment of ASCs with transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β1) enhanced hASC pericyte function, in a manner similar to native retinal pericytes, with increased marker expression of smooth muscle actin, cellular contractility, endothelial stabilization, and microvascular protection in OIR. Finally, injected ASCs prevented capillary loss in the diabetic retinopathic Akimba mouse (79% reduction 2 months after injection).
ASC-derived pericytes can integrate with retinal vasculature, adopting both pericyte morphology and marker expression, and provide functional vascular protection in multiple murine models of retinal vasculopathy. The pericyte phenotype demonstrated by ASCs is enhanced with TGF-β1 treatment, as seen with native retinal pericytes. ASCs may represent an innovative cellular therapy for protection against and repair of DR and other retinal vascular diseases.
Focal degradation of extracellular matrix (ECM) is the first step in the invasion of cancer cells. MT1-MMP is a potent membrane proteinase employed by aggressive cancer cells. In our previous study, we reported that MT1-MMP was preferentially located at membrane protrusions called invadopodia, where MT1-MMP underwent quick turnover. Our computer simulation and experiments showed that this quick turnover was essential for the degradation of ECM at invadopodia (Hoshino, D., et al., (2012) PLoS Comp. Biol., 8: e1002479). Here we report on characterization and analysis of the ECM-degrading activity of MT1-MMP, aiming at elucidating a possible reason for its repetitive insertion in the ECM degradation. First, in our computational model, we found a very narrow transient peak in the activity of MT1-MMP followed by steady state activity. This transient activity was due to the inhibition by TIMP-2, and the steady state activity of MT1-MMP decreased dramatically at higher TIMP-2 concentrations. Second, we evaluated the role of the narrow transient activity in the ECM degradation. When the transient activity was forcibly suppressed in computer simulations, the ECM degradation was heavily suppressed, indicating the essential role of this transient peak in the ECM degradation. Third, we compared continuous and pulsatile turnover of MT1-MMP in the ECM degradation at invadopodia. The pulsatile insertion showed basically consistent results with the continuous insertion in the ECM degradation, and the ECM degrading efficacy depended heavily on the transient activity of MT1-MMP in both models. Unexpectedly, however, low-frequency/high-concentration insertion of MT1-MMP was more effective in ECM degradation than high-frequency/low-concentration pulsatile insertion even if the time-averaged amount of inserted MT1-MMP was the same. The present analysis and characterization of ECM degradation by MT1-MMP together with our previous report indicate a dynamic nature of MT1-MMP at invadopodia and the importance of its transient peak in the degradation of the ECM.
Metastasis is the major cause of death in cancer patients. If metastasis is blocked, the survival rate will be greatly increased. Cancer cells are surrounded by ECM (extracellular matrix), which prevents their free movement. MT1-MMP is a potent membrane proteinase that degrades ECM, which is the first step of cancer cell invasion. Thus, the control of MT1-MMP activity is a key to the prevention of metastasis. Here we found a sharp transient peak in the ECM-degrading activity of MT1-MMP by computer simulations, and computational elimination of this peak greatly prolonged the ECM degradation. MT1-MMP is transported intracellularly to the surface of the membrane of cancer cells, and its insertion into the membrane is thought to occur in a pulsatile manner. Therefore, we asked whether the ECM-degrading efficacy was the same in low-frequency/high-concentration and high-frequency/low-concentration insertions of MT1-MMP. Unexpectedly, the low-frequency/high-concentration regimen resulted in much faster ECM degradation even if the time-averaged amount of MT1-MMP insertion was the same. Thus, reduction of the sharp transient activity and vesicular content of MT1-MMP are important therapeutic targets.
Pressure ulcers are costly and life-threatening complications for people with spinal cord injury (SCI). People with SCI also exhibit differential blood flow properties in non-ulcerated skin. We hypothesized that a computer simulation of the pressure ulcer formation process, informed by data regarding skin blood flow and reactive hyperemia in response to pressure, could provide insights into the pathogenesis and effective treatment of post-SCI pressure ulcers. Agent-Based Models (ABM) are useful in settings such as pressure ulcers, in which spatial realism is important. Ordinary Differential Equation-based (ODE) models are useful when modeling physiological phenomena such as reactive hyperemia. Accordingly, we constructed a hybrid model that combines ODEs related to blood flow along with an ABM of skin injury, inflammation, and ulcer formation. The relationship between pressure and the course of ulcer formation, as well as several other important characteristic patterns of pressure ulcer formation, was demonstrated in this model. The ODE portion of this model was calibrated to data related to blood flow following experimental pressure responses in non-injured human subjects or to data from people with SCI. This model predicted a higher propensity to form ulcers in response to pressure in people with SCI vs. non-injured control subjects, and thus may serve as novel diagnostic platform for post-SCI ulcer formation.
Pressure ulcers are costly and life-threatening complications for people with spinal cord injury (SCI). To gain insight into the pathogenesis and effective treatment of post-SCI pressure ulcers, we constructed a computer simulation in a hybrid modeling platform which combines both equation- and agent-based models. The model was calibrated using skin blood flow data and reactive hyperemia in response to pressure and predicted a higher propensity to form ulcers in response to pressure in people with SCI vs. non-injured control subjects. The methodology we present in the paper may eventually be used as a novel platform to study post-SCI ulcer formation, as well as serving as a framework for other biological contexts in which agent-based models and mathematical equations can be integrated.
Vascular development is a complex process regulated by dynamic biological networks that vary in topology and state across different tissues and developmental stages. Signals regulating de novo blood vessel formation (vasculogenesis) and remodeling (angiogenesis) come from a variety of biological pathways linked to endothelial cell (EC) behavior, extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling and the local generation of chemokines and growth factors. Simulating these interactions at a systems level requires sufficient biological detail about the relevant molecular pathways and associated cellular behaviors, and tractable computational models that offset mathematical and biological complexity. Here, we describe a novel multicellular agent-based model of vasculogenesis using the CompuCell3D (http://www.compucell3d.org/) modeling environment supplemented with semi-automatic knowledgebase creation. The model incorporates vascular endothelial growth factor signals, pro- and anti-angiogenic inflammatory chemokine signals, and the plasminogen activating system of enzymes and proteases linked to ECM interactions, to simulate nascent EC organization, growth and remodeling. The model was shown to recapitulate stereotypical capillary plexus formation and structural emergence of non-coded cellular behaviors, such as a heterologous bridging phenomenon linking endothelial tip cells together during formation of polygonal endothelial cords. Molecular targets in the computational model were mapped to signatures of vascular disruption derived from in vitro chemical profiling using the EPA's ToxCast high-throughput screening (HTS) dataset. Simulating the HTS data with the cell-agent based model of vascular development predicted adverse effects of a reference anti-angiogenic thalidomide analog, 5HPP-33, on in vitro angiogenesis with respect to both concentration-response and morphological consequences. These findings support the utility of cell agent-based models for simulating a morphogenetic series of events and for the first time demonstrate the applicability of these models for predictive toxicology.
We built a novel computational model of vascular development that includes multiple cell types responding to growth factor signaling, inflammatory chemokine pathways and extracellular matrix interactions. This model represents the normal biology of capillary plexus formation, both in terms of morphology and emergent behaviors. Based on in vitro high-throughput screening data from EPA's ToxCast program, we can simulate chemical exposures that disrupt blood vessel formation. Simulated results of an anti-angiogenic thalidomide compound were highly comparable to results in an endothelial tube formation assay. This model demonstrates the utility of computational approaches for simulating developmental biology and predicting chemical toxicity.
Proper spatial and temporal regulation of microvascular remodeling is critical to the formation of functional vascular networks, spanning the various arterial, venous, capillary, and collateral vessel systems. Recently, our group has demonstrated that sustained release of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) from biodegradable polymers promotes microvascular network growth and arteriolar expansion. In this study, we employed S1P receptor-specific compounds to activate and antagonize different combinations of S1P receptors to elucidate those receptors most critical for promotion of pharmacologically induced microvascular network growth. We show that S1P1 and S1P3 receptors act synergistically to enhance functional network formation via increased functional length density, arteriolar diameter expansion, and increased vascular branching in the dorsal skinfold window chamber model. FTY720, a potent activator of S1P1 and S1P3, promoted a 107% and 153% increase in length density 3 and 7 days after implantation, respectively. It also increased arteriolar diameters by 60% and 85% 3 and 7 days after implantation. FTY720-stimulated branching in venules significantly more than unloaded poly(D, L-lactic-co-glycolic acid). When implanted on the mouse spinotrapezius muscle, FTY720 stimulated an arteriogenic response characterized by increased tortuosity and collateralization of branching microvascular networks. Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of S1P1 and S1P3 receptor-selective agonists (such as FTY720) in promoting microvascular growth for tissue engineering applications.
The calvarial bone microenvironment contains a unique progenitor niche that should be considered for therapeutic manipulation when designing regeneration strategies. Recently, our group demonstrated that cells isolated from the dura are multipotent and exhibit expansion potential and robust mineralization on biodegradable constructs in vitro. In this study, we evaluate the effectiveness of healing critical-sized cranial bone defects by enhancing microvascular network growth and host dura progenitor trafficking to the defect space pharmacologically by delivering drugs targeted to sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptors. We demonstrate that delivery of pharmacological agonists to (S1P) receptors S1P1 and S1P3 significantly increase bone ingrowth, total microvessel density, and smooth muscle cell investment on nascent microvessels within the defect space. Further, in vitro proliferation and migration studies suggest that selective activation of S1P3 promotes recruitment and growth of osteoblastic progenitors from the meningeal dura mater.