Scientific study of hemangiomas, other rare vascular tumors and vascular malformations is an important and growing area of research. Breakthroughs in the laboratory will help the medical community better understand the conditions, develop new treatments and improve the quality of life for patients.
Laboratory research at Cincinnati Children’s provides the foundation for innovative treatments. Once a month, researchers from the lab get together with researchers and physicians in the clinic to discuss the latest findings during the Vascular Clinical Basic Science Research Conference.
Current areas of focus in the lab include:
- Finding new drug targets for hemangiomas: In the past, physicians thought that hemangiomas formed only from endothelial cells - the thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels. But based on cell migration patterns, Cincinnati Children’s researchers think that neural crest cells (which give rise to a variety of tissues) may actually form portions of the hemangioma, or might direct the endothelial cells to form them. In cultures in the lab, researchers are observing signaling between neural crest cells and hemangioma cells to learn how the two types of cells communicate, and how this leads to hemangioma development. Understanding how hemangiomas originate will produce new targets for therapeutic interventions.
- Learning more about vascular development: Knowing how genes regulate normal development of the vascular system will help us to understand genetic causes and possible treatments for human vascular disorders. Researcher Saulius Sumanas uses zebrafish embryos as a model system to study how vascular systems develop. (Similar genes control both human and zebrafish vascular development.) Sumanas is investigating detailed mechanisms of blood vessel formation and identifying new genes participating in these processes. Ultimately, he hopes to find new genes that can be targeted for treatment of vascular disorders.