The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood, and blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries).  This complex system is involved in a diverse number of functions, including:

  • Transporting blood, proteins, nutrients, O2, CO2, and other molecules
  • Tissue regeneration and reorganization
  • Developmental processes
  • Thermoregulation
  • Immune response
  • Wound healing

The Vascular Network

The vascular network consists of both small and large vessels specifically designed to accommodate varying levels of blood flow and pressure, depending upon the location within the body (e.g. large conduit vessels versus small microvessels within the capillary beds in tissues).

In addition, layered within the vascular tissue is a diverse population of cell types, including endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, pericytes, fibroblasts, and other connective tissue cell types (Figure 1).  The combination of these cell types make up the vascular tissue and form tight junctions or connections, which allow for permeability for both passive and active transport across the vessel wall.



The endothelial cells found within the vascular tissue are also involved in other activities critical to maintaining normal growth and function, including:

  • Providing an inner lining to the heart and blood vessels
  • Secretion of bioactive molecules to affect local cellular environments
  • Mediate angiogenesis and normal microvascular growth
  • Transport molecules from the blood to the interstitial fluid
  • Interact with adjacent smooth muscle cells during growth and disease

In addition, endothelial cells play a critical role in normal tissue maintenance and growth.  However, aberrant or uncontrolled vascular cell growth can also be associated with diseases and processes such as angiogenesis, diabetic retinopathy, and other developmental conditions that are currently the focus of many research efforts today.

Applications for Vascular Cell Systems

Invitrogen offers a choice of the most relevant vascular cell types for use in a diverse number of research projects, including large vessel and microvascular endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells.  Biological research integrating normal primary vascular cell types has been used effectively in numerous applications, including:

  • Cardiovascular research
  • Inflammation
  • Wound healing
  • Burn therapy studies
  • Angiogenesis
  • Basic cardiovascular biology

  • High-throughput and high-content screening projects
  • Cell signaling studies
  • Gene expression profiling
  • Toxicology screening
  • Tissue engineering and regeneration studies

Vascular cell types are shown below in Figure 2


Figure 2.  Types of vascular cells
.  (A) Phase-contrast image of human umbilical vein endothelial cells.  (B) Human umbilical vein endothelial cells, anti-vWF immunofluorescence.  (C) Microvascular endothelial cells were stained using an anti-CD31 primary antibody in conjunction with a fluorescein-labeled secondary antibody.  Nuclei were counterstained with DAPI.

Key Cardiovascular Primary Cell Culture Products

Invitrogen primary cells and media have been developed to work together for optimal performance (Table 1).

Table 1: Key cardiovascular primary cell culture products

  Primary human cells (cryopreserved) Basal media Growth supplements
Large Vessel Endothelial Cell Systems

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Aortic endothelial cells

Pulmonary artery endothelial cells

Umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC)
Medium 200 (500 ml)
Low-serum growth supplement

Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Systems


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Aortic smooth muscle cells

Pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells

Coronary smooth muscle cells

Medium 231 (500 ml)

Smooth muscle growth supplement (SMGS)

Smooth muscle differentiation supplement (SMDS)

Microvascular Endothelial Cell Systems


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Dermal microvascular endothelial cells

Medium 131 with attachment factor (500 ml)

Microvascular growth supplement (MVGS)

Attachment factor (100 ml)

Key Research Applications

Large Vessel Endothelial Primary Cells

  • Cardiovascular disease research
  • Hypertension
  • Circulatory system studies
  • Gene expression profiling
  • Cellular signaling studies
  • Conduit and vessel fluidics work
  • Infectious disease research
  • HTS/HCA screening programs
  • Pulmonary circulation research
Microvascular Endothelial Primary Cells

  • Drug discovery screening projects
  • Cosmetics/consumer products testing
  • Basic vascular biology/physiology
  • Angiogenesis (neovascularization)
  • Metastatic tumor studies
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Endothelial/lymphatic interactions
  • Wound healing and inflammation
  • Tissue engineering and regeneration