Researchers Sonja Boas and Roeland Merks from the Life Sciences group at the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam, have developed a new computational model that simulates the hollowing of blood vessels. This research addresses a scientific debate on the mechanisms of blood vessel hollowing, originating from 1856. The model of the researchers is an essential step forward in this discussion. Their article is published today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
A key step in blood vessel development is lumen formation: the hollowing of blood vessels for perfusion. Experimental observations of lumen formation resulted in two alternative, hypothetical mechanisms explaining lumen formation: vacuolation and cell-cell repulsion. Vacuolation is suggested to take place within the cells, by the coalescence of intracellular vacuoles into one continuous lumen. Cell-cell repulsion is suggested to take place between the cells by active repulsion of adjacent cells.
The CWI researchers developed a model that includes both mechanisms and reproduces the experimental observations. The model is most effective when both mechanisms are present during the hollowing of blood vessels, suggesting that the mechanisms function synergistically. When both mechanisms are active in the model, the hollowing process resembles the vacuolation mechanism when simulated in small vessels, and resembles the cell-cell repulsion mechanism when simulated in large vessels. The model thus provides a possible explanation for the contradictory experimental observations in the debate.