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J Vasc Res. 2014;51(3):163-74. doi: 10.1159/000362276. Epub 2014 May 17.

Pericyte dynamics during angiogenesis: new insights from new identities.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tulane University, Lindy Boggs Center, New Orleans, La., USA.


Therapies aimed at manipulating the microcirculation require the ability to control angiogenesis, defined as the sprouting of new capillaries from existing vessels. Blocking angiogenesis would be beneficial in many pathologies (e.g. cancer, retinopathies and rheumatoid arthritis). In others (e.g. myocardial infarction, stroke and hypertension), promoting angiogenesis would be desirable. We know that vascular pericytes elongate around endothelial cells (ECs) and are functionally associated with regulating vessel stabilization, vessel diameter and EC proliferation. During angiogenesis, bidirectional pericyte-EC signaling is critical for capillary sprout formation. Observations of pericytes leading capillary sprouts also implicate their role in EC guidance. As such, pericytes have recently emerged as a therapeutic target to promote or inhibit angiogenesis. Advancing our basic understanding of pericytes and developing pericyte-related therapies are challenged, like in many other fields, by questions regarding cell identity. This review article discusses what we know about pericyte phenotypes and the opportunity to advance our understanding by defining the specific pericyte cell populations involved in capillary sprouting.

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