Blood flow and vessel formation

Zebrafish Dr Timothy Chico’s lab aims to find new treatments for people with damaged vessels, using one of our key allies in our fight for every heartbeat – the zebrafish.

When blood vessels become damaged, cardiovascular conditions such as coronary heart disease or stroke can develop. Understanding how vessels form could help scientists find ways of growing new, healthy vessels (a process called angiogenesis) for people with damaged vessels. 

How blood vessels grow

We've awarded £208,054 to Dr Timothy Chico and colleagues, at the University of Sheffield, to look at how new vessel growth is controlled and how blood flow affects this process. In particular, they are exploring how blood flow affects the activity of a molecule called Notch. 

The role of the Notch molecule

Notch is involved in a number of important vascular processes. Some of these processes include helping the vessels sprout and grow in the right direction, and deciding which vessels are to be veins and which are to be arteries. 

To look at how blood flow affects the activity of Notch, and therefore how blood flow affects vessel growth, the Sheffield team are using zebrafish embryos. They are intricately labelling proteins in the Notch pathway and measuring whether genes are switched on or switched off in response to Notch. 

New treatments for damaged vessels

With this knowledge, Professor Chico’s lab hope to develop new therapies targeting the Notch protein, which could help treat diseases caused by vessel damage.

Watch the video below of Dr Chico explaining the science behind the zebrafish.

Thanks to your donations, BHF-funded researchers can continue using the extraordinary zebrafish in cardiovascular research.