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Concept: Capillary


During embryonic development, vascular networks remodel to meet the increasing demand of growing tissues for oxygen and nutrients. This is achieved by the pruning of redundant blood vessel segments, which then allows more efficient blood flow patterns. Because of the lack of an in vivo system suitable for high-resolution live imaging, the dynamics of the pruning process have not been described in detail. Here, we present the subintestinal vein (SIV) plexus of the zebrafish embryo as a novel model to study pruning at the cellular level. We show that blood vessel regression is a coordinated process of cell rearrangements involving lumen collapse and cell-cell contact resolution. Interestingly, the cellular rearrangements during pruning resemble endothelial cell behavior during vessel fusion in a reversed order. In pruning segments, endothelial cells first migrate toward opposing sides where they join the parental vascular branches, thus remodeling the multicellular segment into a unicellular connection. Often, the lumen is maintained throughout this process, and transient unicellular tubes form through cell self-fusion. In a second step, the unicellular connection is resolved unilaterally, and the pruning cell rejoins the opposing branch. Thus, we show for the first time that various cellular activities are coordinated to achieve blood vessel pruning and define two different morphogenetic pathways, which are selected by the flow environment.

Concepts: Inflammation, Atherosclerosis, Heart, Blood vessel, Capillary, Tissues, Endothelium, Vein


The formation of endothelial lumen is fundamental to angiogenesis and essential to the oxygenation of hypoxic tissues. The molecular mechanism underlying this important process remains obscure. Here, we show that Akt activation by a Ras homolog, R-Ras, stabilizes the microtubule cytoskeleton in endothelial cells leading to endothelial lumenogenesis. The activation of Akt by the potent angiogenic factor VEGF-A does not strongly stabilize microtubules or sufficiently promote lumen formation, hence demonstrating a distinct role for the R-Ras-Akt axis. We show in mice that this pathway is important for the lumenization of new capillaries and microvessels developing in ischemic muscles to allow sufficient tissue reperfusion after ischemic injury. Our work identifies a role for Akt in lumenogenesis and the significance of the R-Ras-Akt signaling for the patency of regenerating blood vessels.

Concepts: Blood, Angiogenesis, Heart, Blood vessel, Capillary, Endothelium, Ischemia, Cardiovascular system


An explanatory computational model is developed of the contiguous areas of retinal capillary loss which play a large role in diabetic maculapathy and diabetic retinal neovascularization. Strictly random leukocyte mediated capillary occlusion cannot explain the occurrence of large contiguous areas of retinal ischemia. Therefore occlusion of an individual capillary must increase the probability of occlusion of surrounding capillaries. A retinal perifoveal vascular sector as well as a peripheral retinal capillary network and a deleted hexagonal capillary network are modelled using Compucell3D. The perifoveal modelling produces a pattern of spreading capillary loss with associated macular edema. In the peripheral network, spreading ischemia results from the progressive loss of the ladder capillaries which connect peripheral arterioles and venules. System blood flow was elevated in the macular model before a later reduction in flow in cases with progression of capillary occlusions. Simulations differing only in initial vascular network structures but with identical dynamics for oxygen, growth factors and vascular occlusions, replicate key clinical observations of ischemia and macular edema in the posterior pole and ischemia in the retinal periphery. The simulation results also seem consistent with quantitative data on macular blood flow and qualitative data on venous oxygenation. One computational model applied to distinct capillary networks in different retinal regions yielded results comparable to clinical observations in those regions.

Concepts: Scientific method, Blood, Blood vessel, Capillary, Cardiovascular system, Quantitative research, Arteriole, Venule


White-blood-cell (WBC) assessment is employed for innumerable clinical procedures as one indicator of immune status. Currently, WBC determinations are obtained by clinical laboratory analysis of whole blood samples. Both the extraction of blood and its analysis limit the accessibility and frequency of the measurement. In this study, we demonstrate the feasibility of a non-invasive device to perform point-of-care WBC analysis without the need for blood draws, focusing on a chemotherapy setting where patients' neutrophils-the most common type of WBC-become very low. In particular, we built a portable optical prototype, and used it to collect 22 microcirculatory-video datasets from 11 chemotherapy patients. Based on these videos, we identified moving optical absorption gaps in the flow of red cells, using them as proxies to WBC movement through nailfold capillaries. We then showed that counting these gaps allows discriminating cases of severe neutropenia (<500 neutrophils per µL), associated with increased risks of life-threatening infections, from non-neutropenic cases (>1,500 neutrophils per µL). This result suggests that the integration of optical imaging, consumer electronics, and data analysis can make non-invasive screening for severe neutropenia accessible to patients. More generally, this work provides a first step towards a long-term objective of non-invasive WBC counting.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Blood, Photon, Bone marrow, Chemotherapy, Capillary, Neutropenia


Formation of a regularly branched blood vessel network is crucial in development and physiology. Here we show that the expression of the Notch ligand Dll4 fluctuates in individual endothelial cells within sprouting vessels in the mouse retina in vivo and in correlation with dynamic cell movement in mouse embryonic stem cell-derived sprouting assays. We also find that sprout elongation and branching associates with a highly differential phase pattern of Dll4 between endothelial cells. Stimulation with pathologically high levels of Vegf, or overexpression of Dll4, leads to Notch dependent synchronization of Dll4 fluctuations within clusters, both in vitro and in vivo. Our results demonstrate that the Vegf-Dll4/Notch feedback system normally operates to generate heterogeneity between endothelial cells driving branching, whilst synchronization drives vessel expansion. We propose that this sensitive phase transition in the behaviour of the Vegf-Dll4/Notch feedback loop underlies the morphogen function of Vegfa in vascular patterning.

Concepts: Inflammation, Gene, Atherosclerosis, Angiogenesis, Heart, Blood vessel, Capillary, Endothelium


Type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed at an early presymptomatic stage by the detection of islet autoantibodies. The Fr1da study aims to assess whether early staging of type 1 diabetes (1) is feasible at a population-based level, (2) prevents severe metabolic decompensation observed at the clinical manifestation of type 1 diabetes and (3) reduces psychological distress through preventive teaching and care.

Concepts: Immune system, Psychology, Diabetes mellitus, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Capillary, Educational psychology, Clinical psychology, Autoantibody


Cell behavior patterns that lead to distinct tissue or capillary phenotypes are difficult to identify using existing approaches. We present a strategy to characterize the form, frequency, magnitude and sequence of human endothelial cell activity when stimulated by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). We introduce a “Rules-as-Agents” method for rapid comparison of cell behavior hypotheses to in vitro angiogenesis experiments. Endothelial cells are represented as machines that transition between finite behavior states, and their properties are explored by a search algorithm. We rank and quantify differences between competing hypotheses about cell behavior during the formation of unique capillary phenotypes. Results show the interaction of tip and stalk endothelial cells, and predict how migration, proliferation, branching, and elongation integrate to form capillary structures within a 3D matrix in the presence of varying VEGF and BDNF concentrations. This work offers the ability to understand - and ultimately control - human cell behavior at the microvasculature level.

Concepts: Angiogenesis, Blood vessel, Capillary, Vascular endothelial growth factor, Endothelium, Neurotrophin, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, Nerve growth factor


Impaired wound healing is a major complication of diabetes. Recent studies have reported reduced lymphangiogenesis and angiogenesis during diabetic wound healing, which are thought to be new therapeutic targets. Statins have effects beyond cholesterol reduction and can stimulate angiogenesis when used systemically. However, the effects of topically applied statins on wound healing have not been well investigated. The present study tested the hypothesis that topical application of simvastatin would promote lymphangiogenesis and angiogenesis during wound healing in genetically diabetic mice. A full-thickness skin wound was generated on the back of the diabetic mice and treated with simvastatin or vehicle topically. Simvastatin administration resulted in significant acceleration of wound recovery, which was notable for increases in both angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis. Furthermore, simvastatin promoted infiltration of macrophages, which produced vascular endothelial growth factor C in granulation tissues. In vitro, simvastatin directly promoted capillary morphogenesis and exerted an antiapoptotic effect on lymphatic endothelial cells. These results suggest that the favorable effects of simvastatin on lymphangiogenesis are due to both a direct influence on lymphatics and indirect effects via macrophages homing to the wound. In conclusion, a simple strategy of topically applied simvastatin may have significant therapeutic potential for enhanced wound healing in patients with impaired microcirculation such as that in diabetes.

Concepts: Atherosclerosis, Wound healing, Angiogenesis, Blood vessel, Capillary, Vascular endothelial growth factor, Endothelium, Topical


This study investigates the fluid flow through tissues where lymphatic drainage occurs. Lymphatic drainage requires the use of two valve systems, primary and secondary. Primary valves are located in the initial lymphatics. Overlapping endothelial cells around the circumferential lining of lymphatic capillaries are presumed to act as a unidirectional valve system. Secondary valves are located in the lumen of the collecting lymphatics and act as another unidirectional valve system; these are well studied in contrast to primary valves. We propose a model for the drainage of fluid by the lymphatic system that includes the primary valve system. The analysis in this work incorporates the mechanics of the primary lymphatic valves as well as the fluid flow through the interstitium and that through the walls of the blood capillaries. The model predicts a piecewise linear relation between the drainage flux and the pressure difference between the blood and lymphatic capillaries. The model describes a permeable membrane around a blood capillary, an elastic primary lymphatic valve and the interstitium lying between the two.

Concepts: Inflammation, Blood vessel, Capillary, Lymphatic system, Interstitial fluid, Endothelium, Cardiovascular system, Lymph


AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: As current islet-transplantation protocols suffer from significant graft loss and dysfunction, strategies to sustain the long-term benefits of this therapy are required. Rapid and adequate oxygen and nutrient delivery by blood vessels improves islet engraftment and function. The present report evaluated a potentially beneficial effect of adult human blood outgrowth endothelial cells (BOEC) on islet graft vascularisation and function. METHODS: Human BOEC, 5 × 10(5), were co-transplanted with a rat marginal-islet graft under the kidney capsule of hyperglycaemic NOD severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice, and the effect on metabolic outcome was evaluated. RESULTS: Although vessel density remained unaffected, co-transplantation of islets with BOEC resulted in a significant and specific improvement of glycaemia and increased plasma C-peptide. Moreover, in contrast to control mice, BOEC recipients displayed reduced beta cell death and increases in body weight, beta cell proliferation and graft-vessel and beta cell volume. In vivo cell tracing demonstrated that BOEC remain at the site of transplantation and do not expand. The potential clinical applicability was underscored by the observed metabolic benefit of co-transplanting islets with BOEC derived from a type 1 diabetes patient. CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: The present data support the use of autologous BOEC in translational studies that aim to improve current islet-transplantation protocols for the treatment of brittle type 1 diabetes.

Concepts: Protein, Blood, Insulin, Heart, Blood vessel, Islets of Langerhans, Capillary, Coagulation