Functionalization of Ultrabithorax Materials with Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Enhances Angiogenic Activity

Successful design of tissue engineering scaffolds must include the ability to stimulate vascular development by incorporating angiogenic growth factors. Current approaches can allow diffusion of growth factors, incorporate active factors randomly, or can leave residual toxins. We addressed these problems by genetically fusing the gene encoding Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) with the Ultrabithorax (Ubx) gene to produce fusion proteins capable of self-assembly into materials. We demonstrate that VEGF-Ubx materials enhance human endothelial cell migration, prolong cell survival, and dose-dependently activate the VEGF signaling pathway. VEGF-Ubx fibers attract outgrowing sprouts in an aortic ring assay and induce vessel formation in a chicken embryo chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay. Collectively, these results demonstrate that the activity of VEGF remains intact in Ubx materials. This approach could provide an inexpensive and facile mechanism to stimulate and pattern angiogenesis.