Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Use of 3D cell cultures for understanding loss of capillaries, a feature of many diseases

05 March 2020

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Arteries and veins transport blood around our body but, zooming in, our organs are eventually irrigated by a complex network of minute blood vessels, known as capillaries. Loss, or regression, of these fragile capillaries is a feature of many diseases, from hypertension to diabetes and cancer, so understanding why this happens could help us keep our circulatory system and organs healthy. Researchers investigated this problem using three-dimensional cell cultures, where cells lining the inside of blood vessels, known as endothelial cells, were encouraged to form capillary tubes. By testing the effects of multiple compounds on these cultures, they identified several proinflammatory cytokines, important signalling molecules involved in immune responses, which caused capillary tubes to break down (as shown in the video) and found combinations of drugs that could prevent capillary regression. Their new insights bring us a little closer to appreciating the complex dynamics of capillary networks in live tissues.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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