Blood vessel development depends on the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling pathway, suggests a study published on May 11 in Nature.
Researchers already knew that another growth factor, VEGF, played a role in vascular development, so Michael Simons, M.D., Robert W. Berliner Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and professor of cell biology, investigated whether FGF might do the same. Mouse embryos genetically engineered to lack FGF receptors in their blood vessels developed smaller and less-branching vascular networks than embryos with the receptors, Simons’ team found. The absence of FGF also hampered the development of lymphatic vessels.
Further, blood vessels were found to need FGF receptors in order to metabolize sugars through glycolysis, a process where enzymes break down glucose. FGF receptors are necessary for production of the transcription factor c-Myc, which leads to generation of the essential glycolytic enzyme HK2.
Knowledge of molecules important for vascular development could lead to drugs that block the blood vessel formation that often sustains cancer tumors, Simons says. It may also point the way toward regrowing blood vessels in patients with vascular problems such as coronary artery disease.