Molecular Mechanisms of Vasculature Formation

Blood vessel formation is tightly linked to different types of cancer in humans. Mechanisms controlling blood vessel formation de novo, vasculogenesis, and blood vessels sprouting from the existing vessels, angiogenesis, are still poorly understood.

The zebrafish has recently emerged as an advantageous model organism to study how the evolutionary conserved network of vertebrate blood vessels arises during development. Transparent zebrafish embryos develop externally, so the finest details of blood vessel development can be easily observed in live embryos using light microscopy. Furthermore, zebrafish embryos can develop for several days in the complete absence of blood circulation, which enables accurate analysis of defects in vascular mutants.

Our lab utilizes zebrafish as a model to study molecular mechanisms of vasculature formation as well as the mechanisms that regulate the fate choices between the vascular endothelial, cardiac and hematopoietic cell lineages.

We are investigating detailed mechanisms of endothelial cell formation, specification, differentiation and proliferation and identifying new genes participating in these processes. That includes making novel transgenic zebrafish lines, which will allow us to observe and study formation, migration and differentiation of endothelial progenitor cells in live zebrafish embryos.

We are also dissecting transcriptional cascade, which controls vasculature formation by utilizing microarray analysis combined with overexpression and gene knockdown studies.

And finally, we are performing screens for novel potential regulators of vasculature formation followed by their characterization and functional studies.