Seeing the Signal: How Blood Vessels React to Change

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In this image, an endothelial cell – the same type of cell found within blood vessel walls – spreads out on a plate and responds to environmental cues. The image was captured by Kwabena Badu-Nkansah of the Hynes Lab at the Koch Institute.

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Kwabena Badu-Nkansah
Hynes Lab, Koch Institute
Epi-fluorescence micrograph

Kwabena Badu-Nkansah and several of his colleagues in the Hynes Lab work to understand angiogenesis – the process by which new blood vessels grow from existing vessels.  Angiogenesis is a critical part of both normal biology and the growth of tumors.

Here, Kwabena investigates angiogenesis one cell at a time.  He has dropped an endothelial cell – the type of cell normally found within blood vessel walls – onto a plate covered with an extracellular protein.  As the cell spreads out on the plate, receptors in its outer membrane (yellow) interact with the surrounding protein, setting off a chain reaction that influences how the cell moves and behaves.  By observing these signals in the lab, Kwabena helps to reveal how tumors use similar signals to recruit blood vessels to support their growth.

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Kwabena Badu-Nkansah explains how and why he captured this image of an endothelial cell interacting with its environment.