Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Smooth Operators
04 July 2012

Smooth Operators

Blood courses through our vessels like water around a river’s path. Turbulent currents created by bends in the vessels can cause fat to sediment. This can lead to vessel thickening or atherosclerosis, a major cause of heart attacks and strokes. Here we see cells in mouse blood vessels communicating to keep the blood flow as even as possible. Endothelial cells (stained red with their nuclei stained white) line the inner wall of blood vessels. To keep vessels flexible, they send messages (highlighted here by a green fluorescent protein) to the surrounding smooth muscle tissue (smooth muscle cells are stained blue). Production of these ‘stay supple’ messages can be further encouraged by treating the vessel with drugs called statins (left), which aim to reduce the level of fat in the blood.

Written by John Ankers

Published in Nature Cell Biology 14, 249–256

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