Scientists Have Found The Key To Regenerating Blood Cells
A new study that was conducted by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Discovery Institute has identified a signaling pathway that will prove essential for something called “angiogenesis.” This allows the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. Published in Nature Communications, this breakthrough could improve the ongoing strategies to improve blood flow in ischemic tissue. That tissue is found in atherosclerosis and peripheral vascular disease associated with diabetes.
“Our research shows that the formation of fully functional blood vessels requires activation of protein kinase Akt by a protein called R-Ras, and this mechanism is necessary for the formation of the hollow structure, or lumen, of a blood vessel.” explains Masanobu Komatsu, Ph.D., associate professor at SBP’s Lake Nona campus. “The findings are important because they shed new light on the biological process needed to increase blood flow in ischemic tissues.”
Komatsu and his research team have used 3D cell cultures and living tissue to show that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) promotes vascularization in the tissue, but the vessel structures that are formed become chaotic and non-functional.
“Functional vessels need to have a lumen; a pipe-like opening that allows oxygenated blood and nutrients to travel through the body, and VEGF alone cannot fully support the formation of such a vessel structure.” explains Komatsu.
“Generating new blood vessels is similar to the way trees grow; sprouts develop from existing vessels and then branch out further and further to restore vascularity, says Fangfei Li, Ph.D., postdoctoral associate in Komatsu’s lab and lead author of the paper. “This study shows that there are distinct steps and signals that control the process.
“First, VEGF activates Akt to induce endothelial cells to sprout. Then, R-Ras activates Akt to induce lumen formation,” explains Li. “The second step involving Akt activation by R-Ras stabilizes the microtubule cytoskeleton in endothelial cells, creating a steady architecture that promotes lumen formation,” explains Li.
“We propose that VEGF and R-Ras activation of Akt signaling are complementary to each other, both are necessary to generate fully functional blood vessels to repair ischemic tissue,” says Komatsu. “Our next step is to work toward promoting the combined signaling of Akt in clinical studies; prompting R-Ras activation through either gene therapy or pharmacologically in parallel with VEGF therapy,” says Komatsu.
As with the trials and tribulations of new science and medicine, it will take some time to perfect this key to regenerating blood vessels. I’m sure people with diabetes have their fingers crossed.
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Jeff Sorensen is an author, writer and occasional comedian living in Detroit, Michigan. You can look for more of his work on The Huffington Post, UPROXX, BGR and by just looking up his name.