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Blood vessels trigger development of the pancreas

gues Eckhard Lammert and Ondine Cleaver did three types of experiments that provided additional evidence that blood vessel endothelial cells transmit signals to embryonic endodermal cells that develop into tissues such as the pancreas.

In cell culture studies, Melton and his colleagues found that isolated, cultured endoderm cells showed no signs of becoming pancreatic cells as they grew. When the scientists added cells from the dorsal aorta -- a vessel that lies next to those cells in the developing embryo -- the endoderm cells began expressing insulin and the gene, Pdx1, which is a known marker of pancreatic differentiation.

In experiments using frog embryos, the scientists found that when they removed blood vessels that were adjacent to pancreatic tissue, the embryos did not show normal expression of genes or insulin production that would be characteristic of normal pancreas differentiation.

Finally, the scientists created transgenic mice in which the gene VEGF164, which triggers blood vessel development, was overexpressed. In these studies, the scientists found that a dramatic increase in blood vessel endothelial tissue accompanied a similar increase in pancreatic islet cells. The researchers also found insulin-producing cells in the stomachs of the mice an area where such cells would not normally appear. The three lines of evidence warrant a rethinking of the role of blood vessels in organ development, said Melton.

"The fact that all tissues and organs in the body need blood has led many biologists, including myself, to consider blood vessels as tubing that provides sustenance for the body," he said. "But beyond that, there are a special set of organs or tissues in the body that use blood to serve their basic functions. These include hormone-secreting endocrine glands, lungs, kidneys, the liver and the pancreas.

"So, these organs must arrange for intimate contact with vessels," he said. "To do this, they could develop fir
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Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
301-215-8858
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
27-Sep-2001


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