The vascularization of engineered tissues in many cases does not keep up with the ingrowth of cells. Nutrient and oxygen supply are not sufficient, which ultimately leads to the death of the invading cells. The enhancement of the angiogenic capabilities of engineered tissues therefore represents a major challenge in the field of tissue engineering. The immobilization of angiogenic growth factors may be useful for enhancing angiogenesis. The most potent angiogenic growth factor specific to endothelial cells, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), occurs in several splice variants. The variant with 165 amino acids both has a high angiogenic activity and a high affinity for heparin. We therefore incorporated heparin molecules into collagen matrices by covalently cross-linking them to amino functions on the collagen. Physical binding of VEGF to the heparin may then prevent a rapid clearance from the implant, while the release rate may become coupled to the degradation of the collagen matrix. The modified matrices were characterized by determination of the extent of the heparin immobilization, the in vitro degradation rate by collagenase. For testing the angiogenic properties, non-modified and heparinized collagen specimens were--either loaded with VEGF or non-loaded--subcutaneously implanted on the back of rats. Specimens were explanted after varying periods of implantation, the dry weights and the hemoglobin contents, as well as immunostained histological sections were evaluated: heparinized collagen matrices loaded with VEGF are vascularized to a substantially higher extent as compared to non-modified matrices.