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Research Sheds Light On the Role of Blood Vessels and Excessive Inflammation

Update Date: Mar 28, 2013 12:21 PM EDT

Inflammation is the body's natural response in fighting infections or other injuries. However, in some cases, the body's response is left unchecked, which leads to excessive inflammation or chronic inflammation that are both detrimental to overall health. Researchers from Yale University looked into the role of blood vessels in controlling and monitoring inflammation levels in the body. The bioengineers found that excessive inflammation occurs when the blood vessels fail to monitor the amounts of white blood cells that leave to fight infections, and thus, in order to control excessive inflammation, they looked at the walls of the blood vessels first.

The research team, headed by Anjelica L. Gonzalez, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Yale, studied the role of blood vessels in facilitating the movement of white blood cells. The researchers understood that when too many white blood cells left the blood vessels to injured cites, the benefits of these fighting cells start to have adverse results in the body. Based from this understanding, the researchers look into the layer of cells known as the pericyte in the blood vessels that is responsible for the permeability of the vessel walls.

"By understanding the regulatory mechanisms within the vascular wall, we hope we can identify potential treatments to ensure or restore the balance between protection and destruction of tissues," said Gonzalez.

The researchers used a composite microvascular model with both the inner and outer layers of the blood vessels in experimenting different ways of controlling the movement of white blood cells. They believe that fixing or modifying the permeability of the vessel walls, particularly the inner wall, could ideally prevent excessive inflammation.

"The results suggest that any disease or disorder that can be termed inflammatory-including wound healing, tissue fibrosis and cancer metastasis-may be exacerbated because of a poor pericyte barrier. White blood cell-mediated inflammation, in particular, is related to the progression of many inflammatory disorders. These findings give us targets on the white blood cell that will allow us to develop therapeutics aimed at inhibiting their contribution to disease progression," Gonzalez stated.

The study was published in PLoS ONE.

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