New research led by York University’s Faculty of Health shows that inhibiting a protein within blood vessels stimulates new blood vessel growth, resulting in healthier fat tissue (adipose) and lower blood sugar levels. The findings provide key insight into how improving blood vessel growth could help to mitigate serious health problems that arise with obesity, such as diabetes.
Tara Haas, a professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science at York University, and a team including first author Martina Rudnicki, a post-doctoral fellow in the Haas lab, investigated a process of the vascular system called angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the formation of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. It helps to maintain normal healthy functions in tissue, particularly when that tissue enlarges. However, when the tissue expands as it stores excess fat, angiogenesis is repressed and new capillaries fail to grow. This results in unhealthy adipose tissue, which increases the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. “It is not clear why exactly new capillaries fail to form in obesity,” says Haas.
Previous research led by Haas found that in obesity, the levels of FoxO1 increase in endothelial cells, which are the main cells that comprise capillaries. “What we know is that a protein called FoxO1 is present in the cells that line the inside of blood vessels, and that it can stop the development of new capillaries. FoxO1 controls how cells spend their energy and it can force them to go into a resting state. During obesity, the levels of FoxO1 increase in capillary endothelial cells. Therefore, it may be possible that FoxO1 prevents new blood vessels from growing in the fat tissues of obese individuals,” says Haas.