A major aspect of regenerative medicine is to develop tissue engineering techniques that allow a defective organ or tissue to be replaced with a normally functioning substitute. One key challenge of creating engineered tissue, however, is the lack of a perfused microvascular network which serves to supply oxygen and nutrients to the tissue. The endothelial cells forming this vascular network not only serve as pipes carrying blood through the tissue, they also play a critical role in the development and differentiation of cells comprising the tissue.
Recent estimates suggest that chronic pain affects approximately 116 million American citizens at an annual cost of around $600 billion in medical costs and lost productivity. Chronic neuropathic pain, often resulting from disease or nerve damage, is a widespread debilitating affliction that is notoriously difficult to treat. Drugs for treating chronic neuropathic pain only help about 40 percent of patients, but are associated with many efficacy-limiting side effects.