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Taking care of the mysterious endothelium

24.07.2017 Health

Dr. Aneta Balcerczyk. Photo: L'Oreal

The endothelium does not attract as much attention as heart or lung. But when it does not work properly, it can lead to diabetes, heart attack, cancer. Dr. Aneta Balcerczyk from the University of Lodz studies the endothelium and checks how the environment affects the functioning of this somewhat mysterious "organ".

Vascular endothelium is a monolayer of cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels. It has a number of important functions in the cardiovascular system and the whole organism. It is one of the vital elements of the cardiovascular system, the disorders of which have long been consistently associated with civilization diseases.


Acting as the first barrier between blood and tissues, it regulates blood vessel wall tension, controls blood flow and blood pressure, participates in immune responses and the formation of new blood vessels, and it is responsible for blood clotting.


Disorder of any of these functions and prolonged activation of endothelial cells can lead to a number of pathological conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, cancer or neurodegenerative diseases.


"Since the endothelium is in direct contact with the flowing blood and the substances it transports, diet, stress and physical activity have a huge impact on its condition. All these factors modify the profile of endothelial activity, activate it, which often leads to cardiovascular diseases, including diabetes, atherosclerosis or hypertension" - told PAP Dr. Aneta Balcerczyk of the Department of Molecular Biophysics at the University of Lodz.


We can take care of the endothelium by ourselves, first of all by paying attention to what ends up on our plate. "Remember that diet should be balanced, rich in vegetables and fruits that are a source of vitamins and antioxidants, and the consumption of animal fats should be reduced" - explained Dr. Balcerczyk. "Secondly, we should try to eliminate stress, which is not always easy, and be physically active. All that will ensure the right profile of endothelial activity and minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease" - she added.


Contemporary studies of the endothelium are conducted at multiple levels and address different aspects of its functioning. More effective treatment of endothelial disorders is possible thanks to better understanding of its role in the development of particular diseases.


Multi-faceted studies of vascular endothelium are also conducted by Dr. Aneta Balcerczyk from the Department of Molecular Biophysics at the University of Lodz, scholarship holder in the 16th edition of L'Oréal Polska for Women in Science.


The purpose of her research is to expand the knowledge of epigenetic changes that regulate gene expression and are inherited, reversible and responsible for cell diversity. Epigenetics describes changes in the level of gene expression that can not be explained by DNA sequence modifications and that depend on environmental factors such as lifestyle, stress, diet.


"My research focuses on the epigenetic regulation of angiogenesis - the formation of new blood vessels from existing structures. The study of mechanisms regulating the process of angiogenesis is extremely important because it is through to the vascular network that all the cells of our body are nourished. Angiogenesis therefore determines the proper development of the body, but it is also an important element of tumour progression because it regulates tumour growth" - explained Dr. Balcerczyk.


From a molecular point of view - explained the researcher - epigenetic mechanisms can also be used as a tool for more effective fight against cancer. "That is what directly prompted me to focus on this subject in the context of the process of blood vessel formation, angiogenesis" - said Dr. Balcerczyk.


Dr. Aneta Balcerczyk hopes that the knowledge gained from her research will soon become an important part of the therapies used in minimizing the effects or more effective treatment of cardiovascular diseases and cancer diseases.


PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland


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