Enhanced angiogenesis is a hallmark of solid tumors and hematological malignancies, and anti-angiogenic therapeutic approaches have recently shown significant benefit in the clinic. As a result, many anti-angiogenic agents are currently in early development. Very few methods have been used to evaluate the anti-angiogenic activity of these agents using an ex vivo assay. Unfortunately, currently available methods are both time consuming and costly. We have developed a novel approach to test the anti-angiogenic activity of new agents in a rapid, accurate and inexpensive way. This model consists of using a combined chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) and feather bud (FB) assay. The CAM already has a well developed vascular network and provides an ideal microenvironment and the FB serves as an active biological testing tool for evaluating angiogenesis. FB is a component of epithelial and mesenchymal cells. The method consists of using fertilized chick eggs incubated horizontally at 37.5°C in a humidified incubator and windowed by day 8. Another set of E8 chicken embryonic skins are collected under a dissecting microscope to isolate FB. The FB is treated with drugs or control reagents and implanted onto the CAM. The eggs are sealed with an adhesive tape and incubated for an additional 2–4 days. The endothelial cells of CAM proliferate and migrate into the FB after two days. After 4 days of culture, both blood vessel formation and FB development are determined by microscopy. New blood vessels in FB are analyzed by H&E and immunohistochemical (IHC) staining and expression of endothelial genes and proteins using RT-PCR and Western blot analysis, respectively. First, we establish that the compound being tested should only affect endothelial proliferation or migration and not kill the epithelial and mesenchymal tissues. We have used this new method to investigate several compounds. First, we evaluated the anti-angiogenic agent fumagillin (1μM) and minocycline (100nM). Although neither drug had any cytotoxic effects on the epithelial and mesenchymal tissues when cultured alone, marked inhibition of FB development occurred on the CAM in a dose-dependent fashion with both drugs as determined by microscopy and IHC. In addition, Western blot analysis showed marked inhibition of Tie-2 protein expression in a dose-dependent fashion in the presence of these drugs. Zoledronic acid, a potent bisphosphonate which has recently been shown to harbor anti-angiogenic activity, was found to markedly inhibit FB development in the presence of this drug at a concentration of 10 μM whereas less effect was observed at 2 μM. This drug did not have any direct effect on epithelial and mesenchymal cells when these tissues were cultured alone. We then examined gene and protein expression of the FB cells on CAM that were treated with zoledronic acid. Both FLK-1 and Tie-2 transcript and protein levels were significantly reduced in a dose-dependent fashion following treatment with zoledronic acid as assessed by RT-PCR and Western blot analysis. We are currently testing the potential anti-angiogenic effects of many other novel drugs using this new model. Overall, the present findings demonstrate that the CAM/ FB angiogenesis model is likely to be a reliable, fast, sensitive, and economical system to screen the anti-angiogenic effects of new agents.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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