Pericytes in Early Vascular Development
Darden, Jordan Alexandra
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Blood vessels are critical for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to all cells in the body. To properly function, blood vessels and their primary components must develop and mature into a healthy network, capable of dynamic alterations to meet new needs of the body. The early genetic and molecular programs that "push" the vasculature to develop are the same programs that reactivate when there are normal changes to the body such as injury, muscle growth or decline, or aging; and when pathologies arise like cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how the vasculature develops into a healthy system by studying all components as they mature. Endothelial cells that comprise the vessels themselves are joined by specialized partner cells called pericytes that help guide and mature vessel growth. Pericytes lie elongated along endothelial cells and have multiple points of contact with the endothelium. In this position, pericytes assist in cell-cell communication and even blood flow regulation in the microvasculature. To study the relationship between endothelial cells and pericytes during development, we observed vascular morphology in three and four dimensions, as well as the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying how these cells are recruited and interact in several experimental models. Thus, to thoroughly analyze the morphology of these vessels, we developed a rigorous methodology using a MATLAB program to determine the colocalization and coverage of pericytes associated with vessels in large image sets. After developing analytical methods to investigate all the components of the blood vessel wall, we expanded our investigation of how pericytes and other aspects of microvasculature develop in animal models, specifically a more commonly used murine model for vascular development and for treatment of human diseases. Our findings of vascular development in mice suggest that there are important differences in how human and mouse brain blood vessels form. Therefore, studies using mice must be carefully designed to account for these discrepancies. Additionally, research into why human and mouse neurovascular development and maturation are different can aid in the development of improved experimental models to better treat human pathologies.
- Doctoral Dissertations