Adipose tissue-derived microvascular fragments are promising vascularisation units for applications in the field of tissue engineering.
Elderly patients are the major future target population of such applications due to an increasing human life expectancy. Therefore, we herein investigated the effect of aging on the fragments’ vascularisation capacity. Microvascular fragments were isolated from epididymal fat pads of adult (8 months) and aged (16 months) C57BL/6 donor mice. These fragments were seeded onto porous polyurethane scaffolds, which were implanted into dorsal skinfold chambers to study their vascularisation using intravital fluorescence microscopy, histology and immunohistochemistry. Scaffolds seeded with fragments from aged donors exhibited a significantly lower functional microvessel density and intravascular blood flow velocity. This was associated with an impaired vessel maturation, as indicated by vessel wall irregularities, constantly elevated diameters and a lower fraction of CD31/α-smooth muscle actin double positive microvessels in the implants’ border and centre zones. Additional in vitro analyses revealed that microvascular fragments from adult and aged donors do not differ in their stem cell content as well as in their release of angiogenic growth factors, survival and proliferative activity under hypoxic conditions. However, fragments from aged donors exhibit a significantly lower number of matrix metalloproteinase -9-positive perivascular cells.
Taken together, these findings demonstrate that aging is a crucial determinant for the vascularisation capacity of isolated microvascular fragments.