Children's Hospital And Harvard Medical School Researchers Show That Cancer-Linked Angiogenesis And Brain Development Share Protein
A protein that helps wire the developing brain by preventing nerve cells from entering off-limits areas does double duty during the formation of blood vessels, Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers have found. Michael Klagsbrun, HMS professor of surgery at Children's Hospital and his colleagues describe this molecular convergence of two ostensibly separate organ systems in the March 20 Cell.
The paper joins by the hip two fast-paced fields of research. One is angiogenesis, the process of new blood vessel growth that occurs mostly during development, but also in the menstrual cycle, wound healing, and cancer. Buoyed by hope that angiogenesis inhibitors and promoters may one day yield treatments for tumors and heart disease, the field is attracting increased attention from basic researchers trying to understand this fundamental process. The second field, axonal guidance, has taken on the herculean task of sorting out how a trillion neurons navigate the developing brain, each one of them connecting with about a thousand target cells as they assemble the adult nervous system.
By showing that these two processes share at least one important molecule, the study raises intriguing questions about how much crosstalk exists between the growth of blood vessels and nerve cells, says Klagsbrun. It also broadens the scope of the preeminent growth factor involved in triggering angiogenesis, called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and has implications for cancer research, he adds.
Known to attract nourishing blood vessels to tumors, VEGF is the target
of efforts in academia and industry to block vessel growth. In unrelated
clinical trials, VEGF is used to coax blood vessels into sprouting collaterals
Contact: Peta Gillyatt
Harvard Medical School