Blood vessels – the tubes that make up our biological 'plumbing' – are essential for carrying oxygen and nutrients around the body, forming their delicate network as we grow in the womb. But in some illnesses, such as cancer or the eye disease diabetic retinopathy, new vessels sprout where they aren't wanted, fuelling tumour growth or causing sight problems. In order to create new blood vessels, two types of cells have to get together and co-operate: endothelial cells and pericytes. To find out more about this process, scientists are cultivating these cells in the lab, using special conditions to engineer the growth of tiny blood vessels, like the ones seen here. Not only is this providing a useful model to figure out how vessels grow in normal development as well as disease, but they're a handy tool for testing drugs that might alter the process, potentially leading to new treatments.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
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