Mechanical interaction of angiogenic microvessels with the extracellular matrix

Lowell T. Edgar, James B. Hoying, Urs Utzinger, Clayton J. Underwood, Laxminarayanan Krishnan, Brenda K. Baggett, Steve A. Maas, James E. Guilkey, Jeffrey A. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Angiogenesis is the process by which new blood vessels sprout from existing blood vessels, enabling new vascular elements to be added to an existing vasculature. This review discusses our investigations into the role of cell-matrix mechanics in the mechanical regulation of angiogenesis. The experimental aspects of the research are based on in vitro experiments using an organ culture model of sprouting angiogenesis with the goal of developing new treatments and techniques to either promote or inhibit angiogenic outgrowth, depending on the application. Computational simulations were performed to simulate angiogenic growth coupled to matrix deformation, and live two-photon microscopy was used to obtain insight into the dynamic mechanical interaction between angiogenic neovessels and the extracellular matrix. In these studies, we characterized how angiogenic neovessels remodel the extracellular matrix (ECM) and how properties of the matrix such as density and boundary conditions influence vascular growth and alignment. Angiogenic neovessels extensively deform and remodel the matrix through a combination of applied traction, proteolytic activity, and generation of new cell-matrix adhesions. The angiogenic phenotype within endothelial cells is promoted by ECM deformation and remodeling. Sensitivity analysis using our finite element model of angiogenesis suggests that cell-generated traction during growth is the most important parameter controlling the deformation of the matrix and, therefore, angiogenic growth and remodeling. Live two-photon imaging has also revealed numerous neovessel behaviors during angiogenesis that are poorly understood such as episodic growth/regression, neovessel colocation, and anastomosis. Our research demonstrates that the topology of a resulting vascular network can be manipulated directly by modifying the mechanical interaction between angiogenic neovessels and the matrix.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number021001
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • angiogenesis
  • biomechanics
  • capillary
  • computational modeling
  • extracellular matrix
  • time series imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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