How new blood vessels are formed

Press release /

Tiny blood capillaries transport blood to almost every cell in the body. Fraunhofer scientists have now identified a factor that encourages the formation of new blood vessels. This opens up new perspectives in the treatment of circulatory disorders.

It is our circulation which ensures that the blood, once enriched with oxygen in the lungs, is distributed throughout the entire organism, pumped to our inner organs and back again to the heart. Tiny capillaries carry the blood to our very extremities – after all, even the tips of our toes want their fair share of blood supply. Until recently, medical science knew very little of how new blood vessels are generated following injury. But researchers at the Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB (Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Technology and Biochemical Engineering) in Stuttgart have now succeeded in throwing a little light on the process of angiogenesis – the formation of new blood capillaries. Using cell cultures of pig's blood, they discovered that white blood corpuscles isolate a factor which causes new blood vessels to form. Dr. Stefan Kiesewetter, a chemist at the IGD, was able to identify the unusual structure of this metabolic agent, which contains a protein molecule and a nucleic acid (RNA). "We've called it Angiotropin", reports Kiesewetter.

The scientists cultured cells from capillary walls alongside one another. When they added the purified Angiotropin, the cells coalesced to form a new capillary within two to three days. The IGD researchers saw themselves as well advised to patent their findings. Stefan Kiesewetter expects that Angiotropin will soon be used in veterinary medicine – to treat injuries, or to improve the blood circulation and thereby the growth of muscle tissue in fattening animals.

The next objective of the Stuttgart team is to investigate human Angiotropin. It could prove very useful to doctors in connection with cardiac bypass operations, in the treatment of blood-vessel disorders, as well as in healing wounds. Moreover, a better understanding of angiogenesis could develop new options for restricting the blood circulation where required – for example in cases of chronic inflammation in rheumatism of the joints, or in secondary tumours.