Abstract Background Adipose-derived stem cell (ASC) has been considered as a desirable source for cell therapy. In contrast to combining scaffold materials with cells, ASCs can be fabricated into scaffold-free three-dimensional (3D) constructs to promote regeneration at tissue level. However, previous reports have found decreased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in ASC sheets. In this study, we aimed to integrate ASC spheroids into ASC sheets to enhance the angiogenic capability of cell sheets. Methods ASCs were seeded in agarose microwells to generate uniform cell spheroids with adjustable size, while extracellular matrix deposition could be stimulated by ascorbic acid 2-phosphate to form ASC sheets. RNA sequencing was performed to identify the transcriptomic profiles of ASC spheroids and sheets relative to monolayer ASCs. By transferring ASC spheroids onto ASC sheets, the spheroid sheet composites could be successfully fabricated after a short-term co-culture, and their angiogenic potential was evaluated in vitro and in ovo. Results RNA sequencing analysis revealed that upregulation of angiogenesis-related genes was found only in ASC spheroids. The stimulating effect of spheroid formation on ASCs toward endothelial lineage was demonstrated by enhanced CD31 expression, which maintained after ASC spheroids were seeded on cell sheets. Relative to ASC sheets, enhanced expression of VEGF and hepatocyte growth factor was also noted in ASC spheroid sheets, and conditioned medium of ASC spheroid sheets significantly enhanced tube formation of endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, chick embryo chorioallantoic membrane assay showed a significantly higher capillary density with more branch points after applying ASC spheroid sheets, and immunohistochemistry also revealed a significantly higher ratio of CD31-positive area. Conclusion In the spheroid sheet construct, ASC spheroids can augment the pro-angiogenesis capability of ASC sheets without the use of exogenous biomaterial or genetic manipulation. The strategy of this composite system holds promise as an advance in 3D culture technique of ASCs for future application in angiogenesis and regeneration therapies.
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