Spanish researchers have described the role of p38 protein in angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), an essential process for tumor cells to feed, grow and, eventually, generate metastases. This finding could help improve tumor treatments with chemotherapy, as well as develop more effective angiogenic therapies for other diseases.
The study, by researchers at the Biomedical Research Institute (IRB Barcelona) and published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that inhibition of the p38 protein enhances the formation of new blood vessels in human and mouse colon tumors.
The team led by Ángel R. Nebreda, head of the Signaling and Cell Cycle Laboratory at IRB Barcelona, has shown that p38 activity is important in a certain type of cells called mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), which have high plasticity and can be located around the blood vessels. MSC contribute to several processes such as tumor development, and this work describes their importance in the regulation of angiogenesis.
Until now, functions of p38 in tumor cells had been described, but little was known about how this protein acted in MSC and even less during the angiogenesis process. The objective was precisely to investigate the role of p38 in the formation of new blood vessels during tumorigenesis, especially considering the contribution of MSC.
As Nebreda explains, the study shows that “p38 represses angiogenesis by acting specifically in MSC. Using genetic mouse models, we show that p38 inhibition stimulates the formation of new blood vessels, both in tumors and during repair of damaged tissue.”
Optimize tumor treatments with chemotherapy
The conclusions of this study allow a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the formation of new blood vessels, and may have implications for optimizing tumor treatments with chemotherapy, as well as for treating diseases in which angiogenesis is compromised.
“We hope that the biological knowledge generated by our work can be applied in the future to achieve more effective therapies,” concludes Raquel Batlle, postdoctoral researcher at IRB Barcelona and first author of the article.