Pathway to new arteries

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Scientists at the School of Medicine and University College London (UCL) have found a molecular pathway that can bypass blocked arteries and help form new arteries after heart attacks, strokes, and other acute illnesses. The Yale-UCL team reported in the April 29 issue of Developmental Cell that in order to make new arteries, which can form in adults when organs become oxygen-deprived, three molecules must work together. The oxygen-starved organs must first release a molecular signal called VEGF. That signal must then bind with two molecules known as VEGFR2 and NRP1. NRP1 transports the other two molecules to a signaling center in the walls of blood vessels. Mice that lacked part of that transporter had poorly constructed arterial branches in their internal organs and could not repair blood vessel blockage by forming new arteries. “This opens new therapeutic opportunities for developing drugs that would either stimulate or inhibit blood vessel formation,” said corresponding author Michael Simons, M.D. ’84, professor of medicine and cell biology, and director of the cardiovascular research center at the School of Medicine.