Professor Caryl Hill, Blood Vessel Group, Eccles Institute of Neuroscience, JCSMR, ANU.
The health of tissues throughout the body depends on the fine tuning of blood flow through capillary and arteriolar networks to match changes in metabolic demands. Vasodilation of local vascular networks must therefore spread rapidly to encompass upstream supply arteries; a process which relies on conduction of electrical signals through the well coupled vascular endothelium.
Although attenuation of the spreading vasodilation would be expected to occur as the underlying electrical signals decay during passage through cells along the arterioles, our studies have uncovered a simple electromechanical mechanism which enables this process to occur in an unexpectedly conservative manner. However, we have also found that changes to this mechanism during hypertension threaten the ability of microvascular networks to maintain tissue integrity. Our data provide evidence for the involvement of a pathway which could be pharmacologically targeted to restore this critical capability of the microcirculation to regulate blood flow.