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The cardiovascular system is vital for nutrient delivery and waste removal throughtout the body. It develops during embryogenesis and undergoes remodeling during wound healing, pregnancy, and disease. Vasculogenesis (the formation of primary vessels) and angiogenesis (the extension and remodeling of existing vessels) are critical processes for vascular maintenance. Multiple cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, stroke, hypertension, venous thrombosis, diabetes, cardiomyopathy, and arrythmias are some of the most widespread health concerns in our society.
Synchronized contraction of cardiomyocytes provides the force that pumps blood through arteries, veins, and capillaries, while lymphatic vessels return interstitial fluid to the system. The heart and vessels are lined with endothelial cells (EC) that mediate solute transport, respond to circulating factors, and serve as a barrier between the blood and tissues. Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) lie in the medial layer of arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels. Especially in muscular arteries, this layer provides physical strength and plays a central role in blood pressure regulation. Vessels are also supported by elastic membrane layers that help accommodate pressure changes during pulsatile blood flow.
During inflammation, endothelial cells upregulate adhesion proteins that mediate the trapping of immune cells which then extravasate across the barrier to reach sites of tissue damage or infection. The lymphatic system carries activated leukocytes back to the circulation for systemic immune protection. Physical damage to the vasculature triggers activation of the coagulation cascade to induce clot formation and minimize blood loss. Hypertension can result from multiple factors including endocrine and sympathetic nervous system dysfunction, kidney damage, and a loss of vascular stiffness.
Uncover novel aspects of the sprouting and extension of new blood vessels as they move toward underserved tissues. Angiogenesis is a key process in embryonic development, wound healing, and cancer.
Dissect the functions of cardiomyocytes in the heart plus endothelial, smooth muscle, and pericytes in the vascular and lymphatic systems.
Pick apart the proteolytic cascade that results in fibrin clot formation. It’s required to limit blood loss during injury but can be life threatening in atherosclerosis, stroke, and deep vein thrombosis.
Get a better handle on blood pressure control by the heart, vasculature, kidneys, and brain. Peptide hormones and neurotransmitters work together to regulate vascular resistance, cardiac output, and ion homeostasis.
Explore the nuances of inflammatory mediator production by vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells. These molecules promote the attraction and activation of immune cells and the progression of inflammatory responses.