Exploring Vessel Plasticity in the Tumor Microenvironment

Arinola Lampejo
Graduate Student, Biomedical Engineering Program

Biomimetic tumor microenvironment models bridge the gap between in vitro and in vivo systems and serve as a useful way to address the modeling challenge of how to recreate the cell and system complexity associated with real tissues. Our laboratory has developed an ex vivo rat mesentery culture model, which allows for simultaneous investigation of blood and lymphatic microvascular network remodeling in an intact tissue environment. Given that angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis are key contributors to the progression of cancer, the objective of this study was to combine tissue and tumor spheroidculture methods to establish a novel ex vivo tumor spheroid-tissue model by verifying its use for evaluating the effects of cancer cell behavior on the local microvascular environment. H1299 or A549 tumor spheroids were formed via hanging dropculture and seeded onto rat mesenteric tissues harvested from adult male Wistar rats. Tissues with transplanted spheroids were cultured in serum-free media for 3 to 5 days. PECAM, NG2, CD11b, and αSMA labeling identified endothelial cells, pericytes, immune cells, and smooth muscle cells, respectively. Time-lapse imaging confirmed cancer cell type specific migration. In addition to increasing PECAM positive capillary sprouting and LYVE-1 positive endothelial cell extensions indicative of lymphangiogenesis, tumor spheroid presence induced the formation of lymphatic/blood vessel connections and the formation of hybrid, mosaic vessels that were characterized by discontinuous LYVE-1 labeling. The results supportthe application of a novel tumor spheroid microenvironment model for investigating cancer cell–microvascular interactions.

Arinola Lampejo is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate working with Dr. Lee Murfee in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering. Her research focuses on how cancer affects influences angiogenic and lymphangiogenic growth and remodeling in the tumor microenvironment.

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