Angiogenesis plays a critical role in many diseases, including macular degeneration. At present, the pathological mechanisms remain unclear while appropriate models dissecting regulation of angiogenic processes are lacking. We propose an in vitro angiogenesis process and test it by examining the co-culture of human retinal pigmental epithelial cells (ARPE-19) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) inside a microfluidic device. From characterisation of the APRE-19 monoculture, the tight junction protein (ZO-1) was found on the cells cultured in the microfluidic device but changes in the medium conditions did not affect the integrity of monolayers found in the permeability tests. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) secretion was elevated under low glucose and hypoxia conditions compared to the control. After confirming the angiogenic ability of HUVEC, the cell-cell interactions were analyzed under lowered glucose medium and chemical hypoxia by exposing ARPE-19 cells to cobalt (II) chloride (CoCl2). Heterotypic interactions between ARPE-19 and HUVEC were observed, but proliferation of HUVEC was hindered once the monolayer of ARPE-19 started breaking down. The above characterisations showed that alterations in glucose concentration and/or oxygen level as induced by chemical hypoxia causes elevations in VEGF produced in ARPE-19 which in turn affected directional growth of HUVEC.
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