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Regulation of blood and lymphatic vessel development

Many vascular gene enhancers direct very precise patterns of gene expression within distinct endothelial sub-groups. This can be modelled in transgenic zebrafish and mice.

The goal of my laboratory is to understand how blood vessels grow, differentiate and regress through studying the transcriptional regulation of vascular genes. 

The vascular system is a highly branched network of endothelial cell-lined tubes that transports blood, metabolites and waste products throughout the body. In addition to being essential for embryonic development, the formation of new blood vessels is required after injury, during tissue regrowth and repair, and for the growth and spread of solid tumours. However, our ability to manipulate vessel growth for therapeutic aims is hampered by a poor understanding of the mechanisms regulating vessel growth in both physiological and pathological contexts.

To study vessel regulation, my laboratory primarily focuses on the identification, characterisation and delineation of enhancers (cis-regulatory elements) directing gene expression within the vasculature. Enhancers are densely clustered groups of transcription factor binding motifs and are the principal regulators of spatio-temporal patterns of gene transcription. Analysis of the proteins that activate and repress different enhancers is combined with genetic studies to accurately position these factors within complex signalling networks. We are using this approach to understand what makes blood vessels molecularly different from each other, to determine the signalling cascades involved at different stages of vessel growth, and to study these processes in different disease states, and during repair after  injury (e.g. after a heart attack). 

This work involves a variety of model systems including transgenic mouse and zebrafish, tissue culture and in silico analysis.

Our team

Selected Publications

What's new

DPAG and IDRM researchers exceed fundraising target for BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride

On Sunday 18 June 2023, a team of researchers based at the Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine (IDRM) took on the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) London to Brighton Bike Ride, raising more than £1300 and counting.

BHF Fellowship renewal for Sarah De Val paves the way to novel strategies for inducing and improving arterial growth

Congratulations are in order for Associate Professor Sarah De Val, who has been awarded a renewal of her British Heart Foundation Senior Basic Science Research Fellowship. The award recognises her pioneering research on coronary vessel formation and differentiation.

BHF funded DPAG projects to receive share of £2 million raised by the London Marathon

The British Heart Foundation were charity of the year for the 2022 TCS London Marathon. Around 800 BHF London Marathon runners, including former De Val lab researcher Dr Alice Preston, have raised nearly £2 million, and rising, for BHF-funded science that could lead to improved new treatments for heart failure. Research led by Associate Professor Sarah De Val and Dr Joaquim Vieira are two of eight projects to receive funding from these proceeds.

Latest publications

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