Research highlight

Directing the building of blood vessels

Nature Cell Biology

May 16, 2011

Distinct signalling cues control the direction of blood vessels growth during development reports a paper published online this week in Nature Cell Biology. This finding could potentially be utilized in the development of drugs to halt blood supply to growing cancer cells.

During vertebrate development, the dorsal aorta and the anterior vein in the heart form a loop that ensures oxygen delivery to the organs. The mature circulation system is expanded and built by sprouting in opposite direction from these primitive blood vessels. Using zebrafish as a model system, Suk-Won Jin and colleagues have found that distinct signalling cues control the direction of blood vessels growth during development. They note that aortic sprouts grow in one direction in response to the growth factor Vegf-A, a factor which they demonstrate has no influence on sprouts from the anterior vein. The authors also show that anterior vein sprouting in the opposite direction occurs in response to a different signalling pathway directed by the BMP molecule.

Since cancer cells grow their own vascular system to ensure oxygen supply, elucidating the basic mechanisms of blood vessels growth during development could allow scientists to create drugs that specifically cut out blood supply to malignant cells.

doi: 10.1038/ncb2232

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