Lumie Kawasaki, MD, MBA

Tulane Center for Aging Member Lumie Kawasaki, MD, MBA delivered the keynote address on July 12 at the 2014 National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference and Exposition. More information here.

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Dr. Murfee talks about blood vessel growth

Did you know that every tissue in your body except certain tissues in your eye and cartilage, contain blood vessels? Vessels are the common denominator across tissue systems making them a common denominator across pathologies or diseases. Angiogenesis is defined as the growth of new vessels from existing vessels. Dr. W. Lee Murfee studies angiogenesis and all the factors that are involved.  

Interested in cellular and molecular dynamics in growing new blood vessels, Dr. Murfee studies these factors by stimulating angiogenesis in animals. He can watch blood vessel growth happen by tagging certain molecules with antibodies. After the molecules have been tagged they become visible under a microscope, appearing as a distinct color. Dr. Murfee's research is aimed at figuring out the factors and all the key components of how a blood vessel grows and develops into a properly functioning vessel. "We look at pictures of blood vessel growth everyday and on every picture we identify the actual blood vessel that is growing and the cell types involved."

Dr. Murfee explains the very basic science behind his research as "understanding the fundamental mechanisms or dynamics involved in this growth process and that includes the identification of the cells and molecules present along vessels and in the local environment. That also includes identifying how those cells and molecules that are present change over time and space."  

A blood vessel in your muscle starts out by the appearance of endothelial cells. Even though the endothelial cells are necessary, they cannot create a blood vessel alone and pericytes must be present as well. Pericytes wrap around the growing capillary and latch onto the matrix of the surrounding tissue.  "There is a fundamental question of where do those cells come from? We know they are important, we know that they need to be there and we know that they are involved in growing functional new blood vessels, but where do they come from?"  

Dr. Murfee hopes his research will help with our knowledge of how we can treat diseases. This knowledge could help doctors gain the ability to encourage blood vessel growth in the heart to help a patient overcome a heart attack. It could also be used to discourage blood vessel growth around a tumor to cut off its food supply or keep the tumor from spreading. Another goal of his research is to help age-related diseases such as hypertension. Hypertension is an age-related disease where the person has fewer vessels. Generally as people age they lose blood vessel growth, but in hypertension it is much more apparent. In order to understand what goes wrong in impaired growth situations, you must start with the basic knowledge of understanding how blood vessels grow.

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