Pluripotent stem cells hold key to blood vessel formation

Pluripotent stem cells, those cells capable of transforming into any type of tissue in the human body, hold the key to one of science’s biggest challenges: the formation of new blood vessels.

Researchers in the laboratory of Sharon Gerecht, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, have demonstrated a method that causes these powerful cells to form a fresh network of blood vessels when transplanted in mice. Shawna Williams, writer at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, reports here on this new research, which was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You can find the article here.

Shown are lab-grown human blood vessel networks (red) incorporating into and around mouse networks (green). (Gerecht Lab/PNAS)

Shown are lab-grown human blood vessel networks (red) incorporating into and around mouse networks (green). (Gerecht Lab/PNAS)

Here’s a comment from Gerecht, who is affiliated with both Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences–Oncology Center and Institute for NanoBioTechnology:

“In demonstrating the ability to rebuild a microvascular bed in a clinically relevant manner, we have made an important step toward the construction of blood vessels for therapeutic use … Our findings could yield more effective treatments for patients afflicted with burns, diabetic complications and other conditions in which vasculature function is compromised.”

The Gerecht lab, in collaboration with researchers at the School of Medicine, has been working on this puzzle for some time. One important stride in this current work is that the vessels are forming and persisting in a living animal and not just in a culture in a flask.

Says lead author and doctoral student in biomedical engineering, Sravanti Kusuma:

“That these vessels survive and function inside a living animal is a crucial step in getting them to medical application.”

You can read about some of the Gerecht lab’s previous findings in this particular pursuit in the articles listed below:

Engineers Coax Stem Cells to Diversify 

Research Seeks to Turn Stem Cells into Blood Vessels