Team creates cells that line blood vessels

by Joseph Caputo

In a scientific first, Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists have successfully grown the cells that line the blood vessels—called vascular endothelial cells—from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), revealing new details about how these cells function. Using a unique approach, the researchers induced the differentiation of specific cell types by generating mechanical forces on the surface of the iPSC-derived endothelium mimicking the flow of blood. For example, cells that felt a stronger "flow" became artery cells, while those that felt a weaker "flow" became vein cells.

"It was especially exciting to us to discover that these cells are basically responding to biomechanical cues," research leader Guillermo García-Cardena, PhD, an HSCI Affiliated Faculty member, said. "By exposing cells to 'atheroprone flow,' we can direct differentiation of these cells into cells that are present in areas of the circulatory system that we know are affected by diseases like atherosclerosis." García-Cardena is now working on modeling the formation of arterial plaques using human iPSC-derived vascular endothelial cells and identifying potential drugs that might prevent .

García-Cardena's team, which included Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences graduate student William Adams, found that the iPS-derived display three critical functions carried out by mature endothelium in the body: mounting , keeping blood from leaking out of the blood vessel, and preventing blood clots.

Based on this information, García-Cardena's work, published this month in the journal Stem Cell Reports, has another exciting implication—it could potentially reduce, or even eliminate the need for heparin use during and lung failure treatment—making both markedly safer.

Traditionally, patients undergoing dialysis are treated with heparin, a powerful drug, which prevents the blood from clotting as it's routed through the dialysis machine. While heparin is quite effective in preventing clotting, because it considerably thins the blood, it can also cause loss of blood, internal bleeding, and interfere with the healing process.

"The iPSC-derived endothelial cells cells beautifully function as an anticoagulant surface," said García-Cardena, an Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. "In the future, we may take a tissue sample from a patient, generate iPSCs, and then cover an extracorporeal device with the patient's own endothelial cells—so the patient can go home with the device without the need for regular heparin shots."

More information: Functional Vascular Endothelium Derived from Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. Stem Cell Reports. August 6, 2013

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

4 hours ago

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

6 hours ago

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments