Critical limb ischaemia (CLI) is a debilitating ischaemic disease caused by vascular occlusion. Pro-angiogenic therapeutics have the potential to produce collateral vasculature, delaying or negating the need for amputation or invasive revascularisation. Thermoresponsive hydrogels can provide an in situ depot for the sustained release of drugs and provide protection and cohesion for encapsulated cells. Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) have demonstrated strong angiogenic potential in vitro and angiogenic efficacy in vivo. Desferrioxamine (DFO), a pharmacological activator of the pro-angiogenic hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha pathway, has shown pro-angiogenic efficacy in vivo. This study combined hMSCs and DFO with a thermoresponsive chitosan/beta-glycerophosphate (beta-GP) gel, to function as an injectable, multimodal, pro-angiogenic therapeutic for the treatment of CLI. This gel underwent a thermogelation beginning at 33 degrees C, and provided a sustained, biologically active release of DFO over the space of seven days, whilst permitting the survival, proliferation and migration of encapsulated hMSCs. hMSCs encapsulated in gel containing a 100 mu M concentration of DFO displayed an upregulation in VEGF expression. The combination of hMSCs and DFO within the gel resulted in a synergistic enhancement in bioactivity, as measured by increased VEGF expression in gel-exposed human umbilical vein endothelial cells. This formulation displays significant potential as an injectable pro-angiogenic therapeutic for the treatment of CLI. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.