Researchers in two new studies show that endothelial cells, the cells that make up the structure of blood vessels, are powerful biological machines that drive regeneration in organ tissues by releasing beneficial, organ-specific molecules.
They discovered this by decoding the entirety of active genes in endothelial cells, revealing hundreds of known genes that had never been associated with these cells. The researchers also found that organs dictate the structure and function of their own blood vessels, including the repair molecules they secrete.
Together, the studies show that endothelial cells and the organs they are transplanted into work together to repair damage and restore function, said study's lead investigator, Shahin Rafii, a professor of genetic medicine and co-director of the medical college's Ansary Stem Cell Institute and Tri-SCI Stem Center.

"Our work suggests that that an infusion of engineered endothelial cells could engraft into injured tissue and acquire the capacity to repair the organ," he said.
In one study, the researchers examined nine different tissues at homeostasis, a steady, healthy state, as well as liver and bone marrow recovering from a traumatic injury.

The scientists developed technology that helped them obtain "a pure population of endothelial cells in a very rapid time frame," said study's lead author, Dr Daniel Nolan, senior scientist in Rafii's laboratory.

From these cells, they were able to take a snapshot of all the genes that are being expressed in the various populations of endothelial cells known as vascular beds.
They found that endothelial cells possess tissue-specific genes that code for unique growth factors, adhesion molecules, and factors regulating metabolism. These embryonic-derived endothelial cells "are versatile, so they can be transplanted into different tissues, become educated by the tissue, and acquire the characteristics of the native endothelial cells," said study's senior author, Dr Sina Rabbany, from Weill Cornell Medical College.
The studies appeared in the Stem Cell Journal and Developmental Cell journal.


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