Pericyte-Endothelial Cell Interactions during Blood Vessel Formation and in Diabetic Scenarios

dc.contributor.authorZhao, Huaningen
dc.contributor.committeechairChappell, John C.en
dc.contributor.committeememberLee, Yong Wooen
dc.contributor.committeememberPierce-Cottler, Shaynen
dc.contributor.committeememberVerbridge, Scotten
dc.contributor.committeememberHuckle, William R.en
dc.contributor.departmentDepartment of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanicsen
dc.description.abstractDiabetic retinopathy (DR) is an incurable, chronic disease that is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. A prominent characteristic of DR is the extensive dysfunction within the retina microvasculature. Specialized vascular cells known as pericytes (PCs) are lost or become dysfunctional during disease progression; a thickening of the extracellular matrix (ECM) composing the vascular basement membrane (vBM) and endothelial cell (EC) tight junction disruption are also key features of this disease and contribute to its pathogenesis. PC loss is believed to be a central cue for disease initiation. However, studies inducing PC loss and observing acute changes in the vasculature did not report severe vessel damage or vBM thickening, suggesting that the effects of PC loss occur over a longer period of time. Because the chronic effects of PC loss are more difficult to ascertain, especially in a complex condition such as DR, the mechanisms underlying microvascular defects in DR remain poorly understood. The work presented in this dissertation focuses on pericyte-endothelial cell interactions and their interplay with the ECM/vBM during a variety of physiological and pathological conditions. First, we isolated and functionally validated a primary mouse embryonic PC cell line that we then applied to a co-culture model with ECs to better understand the dynamic interactions between these two critical components of the capillary wall. In the co-culture model, we found that primary PCs promoted EC organization into vessel-like structures and enhanced EC-EC junctions. To complement these in vitro studies, we analyzed animal models and human tissue for the PC-EC interactions and ECM/vBM remodeling under different conditions (physiological and pathological). Moreover, we analyzed microglia and astrocytes to enhance our understanding of the tissue-vessel interface, bolstering our experimental results and facilitating the generation of more hypotheses for future research. Overall, our work suggests that PC-EC interactions in diabetic scenarios play a crucial role in ECM/vBM remodeling; engagement with the ECM/vBM in turn impacted PC behaviors including migration away from the endothelium and induced EC loss of tight junctions, key changes in the onset and progression of DR.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralDiabetic retinopathy is a group of eye diseases occurring in patients suffering from diabetes and is the leading cause of adult blindness among the working-aged. About one in three people with diabetes over the age of 40 have overt signs of DR. The primary cause for this disease is long-term, high blood sugar levels that damages blood vessels systemically as well as in the eye. Current treatments for DR can prevent the condition from getting worse, but no treatment exists that results in a complete cure. This work described in this dissertation focuses on the interactions between vascular pericytes and endothelial cells, two of the main cell types that compose capillaries (i.e. the smallest blood vessels important for oxygen delivery). The studies presented herein also focus on the response of these cells to the extracellular matrix, a scaffold of proteins that surround pericytes and endothelial cells to stabilize blood vessels. We found that extracellular matrix components dramatically increase as a result of the interactions between pericytes and endothelial cells exposed to diabetic conditions. These changes in the extracellular matrix also had important effects on pericytes and endothelial cells and their engagement with their environment and other cells. Taken together, our work suggests that pericyte-endothelial cell interactions and their crosstalk with the ECM play an important role in blood vessel formation and in the accumulation of microvascular defects that fuel diabetic retinopathy progression.en
dc.description.degreeDoctor of Philosophyen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subjectdiabetic retinopathyen
dc.subjectendothelial cellen
dc.subjectextracellular matrixen
dc.titlePericyte-Endothelial Cell Interactions during Blood Vessel Formation and in Diabetic Scenariosen
dc.typeDissertationen Engineeringen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen of Philosophyen


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