Sohelia Zeinali, Colette A. Bichsel, Nina Hobi, Manuela Funke, Thomas M. Marti, Ralph A. Schmid, Olivier T. Guenat & Thomas Geiser


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by a progressive scarring and stiffening of the peripheral lung tissue that decreases lung function. Over the course of the disease, the lung microvasculature undergoes extensive remodeling. There is increased angiogenesis around fibrotic foci and an absence of microvessels within the foci. To elucidate how the anti-fibrotic drug nintedanib acts on vascular remodeling, we used an in vitro model of perfusable microvessels made with primary endothelial cells and primary lung fibroblasts in a microfluidic chip. The microvasculature model allowed us to study the impact of nintedanib on permeability, vascularized area, and cell-cell interactions. The anti-vasculogenic impact of nintedanib was visible at the minimal concentrations of 10 nM, showing a significant increase in vessel permeability. Furthermore, nintedanib decreased microvessel density, diameter, and influenced fibroblast organization around endothelial microvessels. These results show that nintedanib acts on the endothelial network formation and endothelial-perivascular interactions. Advanced in vitro microvasculature models may thus serve to pinpoint the mechanistic effect of anti-fibrotic drugs on the microvascular remodeling in 3D and refine findings from animal studies.