Scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have cracked an important step in the code that cells destined to form blood vessels use to recognize and connect to one another.
The findings by researchers in the Vanderbilt Cancer Center and the Vanderbilt Center for Vascular Biology could have implications for treatment of the nation's two leading causes of death, heart disease and cancer. The findings also may contribute to a better understanding of how an embryo's circulatory system develops.
In the early formation of blood vessels, endothelial cells (which line large blood vessels and form the capillaries) are stimulated to grow and migrate until they hook up with each other and meet an existing blood vessel to which they connect.
Dr. Thomas O. Daniel, Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Professor of Medicine, likens the process to someone driving a car down a street looking for a specific address. The driver reads the addresses one by one, recognizes the targeted address and stops the car.
"Our work focuses on the molecules that direct endothelial cells to appropriate cell partners and permit endothelial cells to 'know they've arrived'," explained Daniel, who heads the Center for Vascular Biology as well as the Cancer Center's Host-Tumor Interaction Research Program.
"That kind of targeting function is necessary for vascular development and for angiogenesis (development of new blood vessels) to support tumors or to repair damaged heart muscle."
Writing in the April 15 issue of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Journal, Daniel, his research fellow Dr. Uyen Huynh-Do and their colleagues report a molecular link between an endothelial receptor called EphB1 and the machinery that mediates cell attachment, integrin alpha 5 beta 3, which had earlier been implicated in angiogenesis.
These Vanderbilt researchers proposed in an earlier report in the journal Genes
and Development that EphB1 is an important, if not dominant, playe
Contact: Matt Scanlan
Vanderbilt University Medical Center