Pericytes and Local Hemodynamics

Pericytes are mural cells that wrap around capillaries and form close contacts with endothelial cells and astrocyte endfeet. For many years, pericytes were considered to be another type of vascular smooth muscle cell, but recent evidence suggests these cells have distinct roles in regulating angiogenesis, local blood flow, and the blood-brain barrier. In fact, pericytes may mediate brain hemodynamics at the capillary level, though their ability to contract or dilate capillaries is currently debated. Opposing results in the field could be explained by pericyte classification methods, as recent work suggests there are at least two distinct populations of pericytes: ensheathing and capillary pericytes. Virtually nothing is known about these pericyte sub-types, particularly in terms of their intracellular signaling pathways and interactions within the neurovascular unit.

The long-term goals of our research program are: a) to characterize the signaling pathways in ensheathing and capillary pericytes in vivo and b) to examine the role of each type in local blood flow control and communication with nearby cells.

This work will clarify the role of pericytes in the regulation of blood flow and form the foundation for our understanding of the differences between these two pericyte populations.