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The New Vascular View

Neutron studies reveal how endothelial cells adhere to the inner walls of blood vessels, resisting the pull of flowing blood
April 1, 2014
The New Vascular View

Endothelial cells stretch to align with the direction of the blood flow, but they remain anchored by secreting more adhesive proteins to help withstand being pulled by the blood flow. (Image credit: Phaeton1/Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

This experiment reflects the beginning of a new knowledge base, not only for treating known endothelial-cell maladies like atherosclerosis, but possibly for treating a broader range of illnesses based on every cell’s structural and adhesive activity.

The cells in your body do not live in a Petri dish; they live amidst the frantic bustle of the body’s interior. They are stretched and squeezed by nearby muscles, bounced about as you walk, and prodded by the coming and going of blood cells. As a result of all this jostling, most of them must work to stay anchored to the surrounding tissue with an ongoing series of adjustments, involving the secretion of adhesive collagen and other connective-tissue proteins, that goes largely unsung. And it goes largely unstudied, too, mainly because of how difficult it is to make the necessary measurements inside a dynamic, fluid-driven, and biochemically active system. Recently, however, Jarek Majewski and Ann Junghans of the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) took a remarkable first step toward remedying that by characterizing key adhesive properties of cells, while obtaining new insights into the workings of the human body in the process.

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