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In this way the vascular system regulates itself, optimising its

blood circulation by pruning and recycling the unnecessary

vessels with reduced blood flow and blood pressure. This newly

uncovered process is important for understanding blood vessel

formation and regression on the cellular level, as this can also

explain the extraordinary plasticity and adaptability of the

vascular system. These investigations were again performed on

the zebrafish, as in this almost transparent fish the development

of blood vessels can be observed in the living animal using

modern microscopy techniques with extremely high temporal and

spatial resolution.

How the cell recognises its own membrane margins and how

fusion with neighbouring blood vessel cells is prevented are not

yet known. For a long time it has been postulated that each

individual cell of an organism has its own code. The regression

process could partly confirm this theory and we would like to

investigate the self-fusion process more closely. As tumours

require a well-developed vascular system for their growth, a better

understanding of the

de novo

formation and regression of specific

branches of the vascular network could open up possibilities for

the manipulation of such a system.

The favourable properties of the zebrafish regarding live imaging will

help to gain a better understanding of the cellular basis of

angiogenesis processes and thereby contribute invaluable insight

into the plasticity of this fascinating tubular network in development

and disease.Work in zebrafish has, of course, to be complemented

with studies in mouse and other model systems, as well as with

studies using human cells and patient information. Only then can

pathways be established with which vessels can be either trimmed

or further elaborated, depending on the patient’s needs.

MarkusAffolter

Biozentrum der Universität Basel

Klingelbergstrasse 50/70

CH-4056 Basel

Markus.Affolter@unibas.ch http://www.biozentrum.unibas.ch/research/groups- platforms/overview/unit/affolter www.horizon2020projects.com

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L

I S S U E S E V E N

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P R O F I L E

C A N C E R & C A R D I O V A S C U L A R D I S E A S E

Fig. 3 Endothelial cells in a remodelling vascular plexus; in the centre

of the image, an existing branch is in the process of being pruned

Fig. 2 Higher resolution image of endothelial cells in a living zebrafish embryo head. Blood vessels are shown in red, nuclei of the latter are shown in green