Modelling angiogenesis: joining cells, maths and computers

4 - 8 October 2010

Venue: Lorentz Center@Oort

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Unraveling the biomechanics of angiogenesis: from basic understanding to application in tissue engineering and drug innovation

The outgrowth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels, called angiogenesis, is a crucial step in myriad physiological and pathological mechanisms. Unfortunately, the complicated causes and effects of angiogenesis make it very difficult to control. Computational models and simulations help unravel both the basic mechanisms of angiogenesis and can help identify the steps in the mechanisms most amenable to intervention.

A wide range of mathematical and computational models range from is currently available. Single cell-based models predict how vascular-like patterns follow from the behaviors and interactions of individual endothelial cells. Many discrete models describe the branching conditions of blood vessels, and predict the morphology of vascular trees near tumors. Continuum models often focus at the tissue level, and describe densities of blood vessels rather than individual vascular structures.

Despite the biological insights these mathematical models have produced, modeling rarely finds application in experimental angiogenesis research yet. Why is that? One reason is a different focus:  experimental and pharmaceutical research necessarily focus on the molecular level, whereas most angiogenesis models take single interacting endothelial cells or vessel branches as the smallest units of their models.  Another reason is the lack of predictive, quantitative models and the required quantitative experimental data to feed such models. We will need models that bridge organizational scales, by showing how molecular intervention modifies the behavior of endothelial cells and, consequently, changes the dynamics of angiogenesis.

Our workshop will host both experimental researchers and computational models working in vascular biology, endothelial cell biology, angiogenesis, and pharmaceutics. We will a) identify the requirements for computational models to make a true impact in basic angiogenesis research, tissue engineering and drug innovation, b) inventarize pre-existing and missing components of such a model, and c) discuss how we can couple such components.


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