Smooth muscle cells (SMCs) modulate to many subtypes during the development of atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases. Clonal expansion of some of these subtypes is the major driver of lesion growth in mouse models. We study the functional consequences of SMCs for vascular disease using experimental disease models, human tissue, fluorescence microscopy, and single-cell techniques.
We are thankful to the European Research Council and the Novo Nordisk Foundation for funding this line of research.
SMC function in vascular disease
How do smooth muscle cells know the difference between living in your arteries or a petri dish? In your blood vessels, smooth muscle cell function is tightly controlled by the local environment of extracellular proteins, signaling molecules, and mechanical forces. But when smooth muscle cells are cultured in the laboratory, these cells respond to the change in their environment, acquiring new abilities and becoming fast-dividing cells. In this project, we aim to establish new methods of cultivation for smooth muscle cells that restore the mechanical and physiological conditions observed in healthy and diseased arteries.
This line of research is led by Julian Albarrán Juárez and funded by the Denmark 3R-Center and Aarhus University Research Foundation (AUFF) Starting grant.
Biomechanics of SMCs
Your car runs on gasoline. Atherosclerosis runs on low-density lipoproteins. But just as you may not know exactly how the gasoline enters the engine and makes It run, there are also many unknowns to how LDLs make atherosclerosis tick. We use fluorescence labeling, experimental models with tunable LDL levels and proximity labeling techniques to learn more about the interactions between LDL and the arterial wall.
We are thankful to Ministerio de Economia, Industria y Competividad and the Severo Ochoa center-of-excellence program for funding this research.
LDL and atherosclerosis
Do you know how much atherosclerosis you are developing? Neither do we. The fact that atherosclerosis for long develops hidden and without symptoms is a big challenge for efforts to develop drugs and lifestyle intervention strategies that can prevent heart attacks and strokes. Using gene-modified minipigs and clinical PET/CT and MR scanners we explore the ability of imaging to measure atherosclerotic disease activity in the asymptomatic stage.
This line of research is funded by the Ministerio de Economia, Industria y Competividad, the Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER) and the ERA-CVD network.