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Physiology (Bethesda). 2006 Dec;21:388-95.

What determines blood vessel structure? Genetic prespecification vs. hemodynamics.

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1INSERM U36, Paris, France.


Vascular network remodeling, angiogenesis, and arteriogenesis play an important role in the pathophysiology of ischemic cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Based on recent studies of vascular network development in the embryo, several novel aspects to angiogenesis have been identified as crucial to generate a functional vascular network. These aspects include specification of arterial and venous identity in vessels and network patterning. In early embryogenesis, vessel identity and positioning are genetically hardwired and involve neural guidance genes expressed in the vascular system. We demonstrated that, during later stages of embryogenesis, blood flow plays a crucial role in regulating vessel identity and network remodeling. The flow-evoked remodeling process is dynamic and involves a high degree of vessel plasticity. The open question in the field is how genetically predetermined processes in vessel identity and patterning balance with the contribution of blood flow in shaping a functional vascular architecture. Although blood flow is essential, it remains unclear to what extent flow is able to act on the developing cardiovascular system. There is significant evidence that mechanical forces created by flowing blood are biologically active within the embryo and that the level of mechanical forces and the type of flow patterns present in the embryo are able to affect gene expression. Here, we highlight the pivotal role for blood flow and physical forces in shaping the cardiovascular system.

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