Nav: Home

Like a zipper -- how cells form new blood vessels

September 03, 2018

Blood vessel formation relies on the ability of vascular cells to move while remaining firmly connected to each other. This enables the vessels to grow and sprout without leaking any blood. In Nature Communications, scientists from the Biozentrum at the University of Basel describe how this works. In this process, the cytoskeleton pushes the cell forward, while an adhesion protein subsequently closes the gap to the neighboring cell, like a zipper.

The blood vessels form a widely ramified supply system that passes through our body from head to toe. They serve as pathways for blood cells and transport oxygen as well as nutrients into each individual organ. In the embryo, blood vessels develop simultaneously in many different places, then connect with each other and thus form a complex network. The starting point of vascular growth are the so-called endothelial cells. These can migrate in groups out from a vessel and form new tubes, the capillaries.

Prof. Markus Affolter's team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel uses the zebrafish as a model organism to investigate the development of blood vessels. In their current study, the scientists have shown that endothelial cells can migrate within vessel sprouts while remaining firmly attached to each other. If the cells were unable to remain attached, bleeding into the surrounding tissue would occur during vascularization.

Vascularization: constant rearrangement of endothelial cells

The transparency of the zebrafish embryo allows researchers to observe blood vessel formation live in the living organism. High-resolution time-lapse imaging of vascularization shows that the endothelial cells move over each other to form a capillary, thereby continuously rearranging their position in the newly forming vessel. Dr. Heinz-Georg Belting, head of the study, took a closer look at this process.

Migration and connection of vascular cells

During the rearrangement of the endothelial cells in the vessel, it is important that the cells elongate and migrate while constantly maintaining cell-cell junctions. The adhesion protein VE-cadherin and the cell skeleton play a crucial role in this process. "These two players must work closely together during these active cell movements," says Belting. "The cytoskeleton takes the first step; it ensures the elongation of the cell. VE-cadherin then anchors the cell protrusions to the neighboring cell. An additional protein finally stabilizes the newly formed endothelial cell junction. This repetitive process enables the cell to slowly creep forward." This mechanism works like a zipper, as soon as the cell has moved a little, the gap to the adjacent endothelial cell is closed.

Plasticity ensures growth and flexibility

The fact that the endothelial cells are very motile during blood vessel formation and yet always stay firmly connected ensures the plasticity of the vessel while maintaining its stability. "The ability of endothelial cells to recognize each other, to migrate and to form cell junctions prevents damage during growth. Furthermore, the blood vessels are flexible to respond to different conditions, such as fluctuations in blood pressure," says Belting "This plasticity also plays a role in wound healing, inflammation and immune response."
-end-


University of Basel

Related Blood Vessels Articles:

3D printing, bioinks create implantable blood vessels
A biomimetic blood vessel was fabricated using a modified 3D cell printing technique and bioinks.
When blood vessels are overly permeable
In Germany alone there are around 400,000 patients who suffer from chronic inflammatory bowel diseases.
Nicotine-free e-cigarettes can damage blood vessels
A Penn study reveals single instance of vaping immediately leads to reduced vascular function.
Creating blood vessels on demand
Researchers discover new cell population that can help in regenerative processes.
Self-sustaining, bioengineered blood vessels could replace damaged vessels in patients
A research team has bioengineered blood vessels that safely and effectively integrated into the native circulatory systems of 60 patients with end-stage kidney failure over a four-year phase 2 clinical trial.
Found: the missing ingredient to grow blood vessels
Researchers have discovered an ingredient vital for proper blood vessel formation that explains why numerous promising treatments have failed.
How sickled red blood cells stick to blood vessels
An MIT study describes how sickled red blood cells get stuck in tiny blood vessels of patients with sickle-cell disease.
Like a zipper -- how cells form new blood vessels
Blood vessel formation relies on the ability of vascular cells to move while remaining firmly connected to each other.
Blood vessels instruct brain development
The group of Amparo Acker-Palmer (Buchmann Institute of Molecular Life Sciences and the Institute of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Goethe University) reported in a Research Article in the last issue of the journal Science a novel function of blood vessels in orchestrating the proper development of neuronal cellular networks in the brain.
Texas A&M team develops new way to grow blood vessels
Formation of new blood vessels, a process also known as angiogenesis, is one of the major clinical challenges in wound healing and tissue implants.
More Blood Vessels News and Blood Vessels Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.