Biomimetic vascular substitutes to treat cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality worldwide and is one of the main complications of diabetes. The performance of prostheses and stents used in vascular surgeries could be improved if the grafts became rapidly covered by healthy endothelial cells derived from circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs). However, the nature and origin of the EPCs is not well understood. The mechanisms that lead to their adhesion to the vascular wall and their differentiation into functional endothelium are ill-defined. We are dissecting EPC and endothelial cell adhesion mechanisms using surface-conjugated peptides that play a role in the adhesion and differentiation of other circulating cell types. To do so, we have developed a live cell imaging system where we can monitor cell adhesion, cell spreading, cell differentiation and the local effects of the peptides on the adhered cells.