We reported previously that, in addition to mechanical strain, a constrained boundary condition alone can alter the organization of microvessel outgrowth during in vitro angiogenesis [1]. After 6 days of culture in vitro, microvessels aligned parallel to the long axis of rectangular 3D collagen gels that had constrained edges on the ends. However, unconstrained cultures did not show any alignment of microvessels. The ability to direct microvessel outgrowth during angiogenesis has significant implications for engineering prevascularized grafts and tissues in vitro, therefore an understanding of this process is important. Since there is direct relationship between the ability of endothelial cells to contract 3D gels and matrix stiffness [2], we hypothesize that some constrained boundary conditions will increase the apparent matrix stiffness and in turn will limit gel contraction, prevent microvessel alignment, and reduce microvessel outgrowth. The objective of this study was to compare microvessel growth and alignment under several different static boundary conditions.

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