Study shows p38 protein regulates formation of new blood vessels

Posted: 18 July 2019 | | No comments yet

A new study shows that the activity of p38 is important in MSCs, which can localise around blood vessels.

Structure of a blood vessel (credit: Raquel Batlle, IRB Barcelona).

A new study has demonstrated that inhibition of the p38 protein boosts the formation of blood vessels in human and mice colon cancers. This process (angiogenesis) is critical in fuelling cancer cells, allowing them to grow and to eventually develop metastases. According to the authors, the findings could be used to improve chemotherapies. 

The study, led by Ángel R Nebreda, head of the Signalling and Cell Cycle Laboratory at Research in Biomedicine at IRB Barcelona, has shown that the activity of p38 is important in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which show high plasticity and can localise around blood vessels. These cells participate in various processes, such as tumour development and this study unveils their relevance in the regulation of angiogenesis.

The objective of this study was to examine the role of p38 in new blood vessel formation during tumourigenesis, in particular considering the contribution of MSCs.

In this regard, the study demonstrates that “p38 represses angiogenesis by exerting its action specifically in MSCs. Using genetic mouse models, we show that the inhibition of p38 stimulates the formation of new blood vessels both in tumours and during the repair of damaged tissue,” explained Nebreda.

The conclusions of this study shed light on the mechanisms that regulate blood vessel formation and may have implications for the optimisation of chemotherapy-based cancer treatments, as well as for the treatment of diseases involving compromised angiogenesis.

“We hope that the biological knowledge that our work has generated can contribute to the development of more efficient therapies,” added Raquel Batlle, a postdoctoral fellow at IRB Barcelona and first author of the study.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.