AUG 30, 2017 3:25 PM PDT

"Sprouting" New Blood Vessels

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Blood vessels are the roads and highways of the cardiovascular system, carrying oxygenated blood cells, nutrients, and immune cells in and out of the heart, brain, and other various organs in the body. Angiogenesis is the process of making new blood vessels, and scientists from the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) are unveiling intricate details into how it works.

New blood vessels branch out of the main one like thin extensions (right). Normal tissue (right) is compared with tissue lacking YAP/TAZ (left), where the pruned-looking branching are not able to develop. Credit: IBS

Building the cardiovascular roadmap

Although the birth of new blood vessels is vital and inevitable, the creation of new vasculature can also promote the progression of cancer, as tumors need a blood supply to grow. After their discovery of a key angiogenesis regulator, IBS scientists hope they can find the perfect balance between maintaining the cardiovascular roadmap and suppressing a tumor’s ability to have access to blood.

Angiogenesis starts and ends with endothelial cells, which provide a structure for the inside wall of blood vessels. Stalk cells are at the back, and tip cells are at the front, as existing blood vessels expand to create new vessels. Both types of endothelial cells are needed for the construction of a strong foundation for the new blood vessels. The process is carefully controlled by specific proteins, but beyond that, scientists aren’t sure of the specifics.

Credit: IBS

New discoveries

Two proteins, YAP and TAZ, make up a dynamic duo vital for triggering angiogenesis as well as putting on finishing touches and maintaining the integrity of the newly-formed vessels. YAP/TAZ are negatively controlled by the Hippo signaling pathway, a necessary system of checks and balances that regulates the volume of new blood vessels.

If YAP/TAZ are overexpressed, endothelial cells generate too many extensions, and the resulting blood vessel growth becomes dangerously exponential, as if there was a tumor. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when YAP/TAZ are underexpressed, the result is a “poorly vascularized retina” leading vision impairment and internal bleeding in the brain. The body needs just the right amount of YAP/TAZ expression.

Researchers used an adult mice model of vision loss from age-related macular degeneration; characteristics of this disease are similar to what scientists see when YAP/TAZ are underexpressed. These experiments confirmed that YAP/TAZ malfunction can lead to “pathological angiogenesis.”

More about age-related macular degeneration

This type of vision impairment usually affects people at least 50 years old. People with macular degeneration experience vision blurriness or loss at the part of the eye needed for “sharp, central vision.” There are no existing treatments for age-related macular degeneration.

"Understanding angiogenesis at the molecular level can help us to address pathological angiogenesis in age-related macular degeneration and cancer," explained corresponding author KOH Gou Young.

The present study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Sources: National Eye Institute, Institute for Basic Science

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 19, 2019
Cardiology
SEP 19, 2019
The WHO Reemphasizes The Importance Of Nutrition
Nutrition lies at the foundation of good health. Without adequate nutrients, people are at substantially elevated risk for developing health problems. The
OCT 03, 2019
Cardiology
OCT 03, 2019
What is Polycythemia Vera?
Polycythemia Vera (PV) is a slow-growing cancer of the blood. The cancer is characterized by an overproduction of blood cells within the bone marrow. Too m
FEB 07, 2020
Cardiology
FEB 07, 2020
Eating Red and Processed Meats Increases Heart Disease Risk
Although the link between consuming processed meats and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is well established, studies focusing on the link
MAR 19, 2020
Cardiology
MAR 19, 2020
Listening to Music Reduces Risk for Repeat Heart Attack
Around 700,000 people survive a heart attack in the US each year, with approximately 1 in 9 of these survivors experiencing subsequent episodes of chest pa
MAR 11, 2020
Neuroscience
MAR 11, 2020
Categories of Memory Work Together to Form Abstract Thought
Indiana University New research from the University of Trento shows how areas of the brain work to recall complex semantic information.  The brain sto
MAR 29, 2020
Cardiology
MAR 29, 2020
Coronavirus Damages Heart Tissue, Not Just the Lungs
Although most severe cases of the novel coronavirus involve respiratory failure, new research has found that the virus may also infect the heart and its su
Loading Comments...