Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Down the Tubes

Discovering the role of blood morphogenetic proteins in regulating the cells lining blood vessels

03 February 2020

Down the Tubes

Your body contains thousands of miles of blood vessels, most of them tiny capillaries just fractions of a millimetre in diameter, which have to be kept in tip-top conditions in order to keep the red stuff flowing properly. The job of building and maintaining blood vessels falls to endothelial cells, shown here growing in circular patterns in plastic dishes in the lab. These specialised cells are normally found lining the blood vessels, where they’re controlled by a chemical signal known as BMP. The cells on the left are healthy and form a tidy layer, similar to the way they would grow in a normal blood vessel. But the disrupted cells on the right have been genetically engineered so they no longer respond to BMP signals. This discovery helps to explain why people with similar genetic changes have cardiovascular problems such as abnormally high blood pressure or leaky, malformed blood vessels.

Written by Kat Arney

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