Human vascular endothelial cells (VEC) line the vessels of the body and are critical for the maintenance of vessel integrity and trafficking of biochemical cues. They are fundamental structural elements and are central to the signaling environment. Alterations in the normal functioning of the VEC population are associated with a number of vascular disorders among which are some of the leading causes of death in both the United States and abroad. VECs attach to their underlying stromal elements through a specialization of the extracellular matrix, the basement membrane. The basement membrane provides signaling cues to the VEC through its chemical constituents, by serving as a reservoir for cytoactive factors and through its intrinsic biophysical properties. This specialized matrix is composed of a topographically rich 3D felt-like network of fibers and pores on the nano (1-100 nm) and submicron (100-1,000 nm) size scale. The basement membrane provides biophysical cues to the overlying VECs through its intrinsic topography as well as through its local compliance (relative stiffness). These biophysical cues modulate VEC adhesion, migration, proliferation, differentiation, and the cytoskeletal signaling network of the individual cells. This review focuses on the impact of biophysical cues on VEC behaviors and demonstrates the need for their consideration in future vascular studies and the design of improved prosthetics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)