Biology open 2018 02 15() pii 10.1242/bio.027060
Therapeutic induction of blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in ischemic tissues holds great potential for treatment of myocardial infarction and stroke. Achieving sustained angiogenesis and vascular maturation has, however, been highly challenging. Here we demonstrate that collagen:alginate hydrogels containing therapeutic, pro-angiogenic FGF-2, and formulated as microspheres, is a promising and clinically relevant vehicle for therapeutic angiogenesis. By titrating the amount of readily dissolvable and degradable collagen with more slowly degradable alginate in the hydrogel mixture, the degradation rates of the biomaterial controlling the release kinetics of embedded pro-angiogenic FGF-2 can be adjusted. Furthermore, we elaborate a microsphere synthesis protocol allowing accurate control over sphere size, also a critical determinant of degradation/release rate. As expected, alginate:collagen microspheres were completely biocompatible and did not cause any adverse reactions when injected in mice. Importantly, the amount of pro-angiogenic FGF-2 released from such microspheres led to robust induction of angiogenesis in zebrafish embryos similar to that achieved by injecting FGF-2-releasing cells. These findings highlight the use of microspheres constructed from collagen:alginate hydrogels as a promising and clinically relevant delivery system for pro-angiogenic therapy.