Constructing three-dimensional (3D) tissues is an important process to improve cellular functions in tissue engineering. When transplanting artificially constructed tissues, a poor vascular network restricts oxygen and nutrient supplies to the tissue cells, which leads to cell death and reduced rates of tissue engraftment. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a system that builds a vascular network within 3D tissues. Here, we developed a hypoxia-responsive gene expression system for production of an angiogenic factor, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), to improve hypoxia and nutrition deficiencies inside artificial 3D tissues. We demonstrated that cells into which the hypoxia-responsive VEGF gene expression system had been introduced autonomously controlled VEGF expression in a hypoxic stress-dependent manner. Next, we confirmed that VEGF expression within a 3D cell sheet was induced in response to a hypoxic environment in vitro. The genetically modified cell sheet was subcutaneously transplanted into mice to evaluate the feasibility of the hypoxia-responsive VEGF gene expression system in vivo. The results suggest that the hypoxia-responsive VEGF gene expression system is promising to prepare artificial 3D tissues in regenerative medicine.
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