Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research Competition Explosive Beginnings

The first step in the formation of new blood vessels - vessel cells growing on a tiny bead

05 October 2018

Explosive Beginnings

Seen down a high-powered microscope, these red shapes are endothelial cells – normally found making up the lining of blood vessels – growing on a tiny bead. This enthusiastic ‘sprouting’ is the first step in the formation of new blood vessels, which are essential for a foetus growing in the womb or during wound healing, but highly dangerous if they start to feed a growing tumour. By taking such a detailed look at the very earliest stages of blood vessel growth in a three-dimensional system, researchers are hoping to understand more about how the environment around endothelial cells encourages them to sprout. In the future, this knowledge could point towards new ways to repair or reconnect damaged blood vessels, such as after a heart attack. It could also lead to novel cancer treatments designed to halt the spread of unwanted blood vessels into tumours, cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients.

Written by Kat Arney

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