How blood vessels are formed and function is a biological problem of great importance in human health and disease. The vascular network provides nutrients and oxygen to every cell in the body, enables the communication between organs and tissues, facilitates tissue-repair and regeneration and forms a physiological barrier to modulate inflammatory responses. Blood vessel dysfunction is a hallmark for many diseases with immense economical and social impact, such as hypertension, atheroschlerosis, ischemia, tissue damage, cardiac dysfunction, cancer development and metastasis. Key cellular players in the vascular system are endothelial cells that are attached to extracellular matrix and associate with each other to form the vascular tube. Endothelial cell adhesion maintains the structural and functional integrity of blood vessels and controls the expansion of the vascular network via the process of angiogenesis. The adhesions sites of the endothelial cells act as molecular organisers that integrate signals produced by the extracellular microenvironment and various intracellular transduction pathways to coordinate almost all cellular responses.
Our research focuses on understanding how vascular adhesion controls blood vessel formation and function during development and in cancer.
The specific aims of our lab are:
elucidate the molecular mechanisms regulating endothelial cell adhesion properties in disease
identify the crucial adhesion players in new blood vessel morphogenesis
delineate the interplay between adhesion molecules and other signaling pathways triggered by growth factors and cytokines
To achieve our goals, we utilize genetically modified mouse models, various ex vivo and in vitro cellular and molecular assays, advanced 4D-live imaging and large-scale proteomics and genomics approaches. Our ultimate goal is to identify specific targets that can be used to modify blood vessel growth and function and provide novel therapeutic approaches for vascular pathologies.