Any type of content formally published in an academic journal, usually following a peer-review process.
Lymphatic dysfunction is associated with the progression of many cardiovascular disorders due to their role in maintaining tissue fluid homeostasis. Promoting new lymphatic vessels (lymphangiogenesis) is a promising strategy to reverse these cardiovascular disorders via restoring lymphatic function. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) members VEGF-C and VEGF-D are both potent candidates for stimulating lymphangiogenesis, though main- taining spatial and temporal control of these factors represents a challenge to developing efficient therapeutic lymphangiogenic applications. Injectable alginate hydrogels have been useful for the controlled delivery of many angiogenic factors, including VEGF-A, to stimulate new blood vasculature. However, the utility of these tunable hydrogels for delivering lym- phangiogenic factors has never been closely examined. Thus, the objective of this study was to utilize ionically cross-linked alginate hydrogels to deliver VEGF-C and VEGF-D for potential lymphangiogenic applications. We demonstrated that lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) are sensitive to temporal presentation of VEGF-C and VEGF-D but with different responses between the factors. The greatest LEC mitogenic and sprouting response was observed for constant concentrations of VEGF-C and a high initial concentration that gradually decreased over time for VEGF-D. Additionally, alginate hydrogels provided sustained release of radiolabeled VEGF-C and VEGF-D. Finally, VEGF-C and VEGF-D released from these hydrogels promoted a similar number of LEC sprouts as exogenously added growth factors and new vasculature in vivo via a chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay. Overall, these findings demonstrate that alginate hydrogels can provide sustained and bio- active release of VEGF-C and VEGF-D which could have applications for therapeutic lymphangiogenesis.