A blood circulatory system (vasculature) is an essential structure in multicellular organisms for distribution of oxygen and nutrients, thereby overcoming the limits of oxygen diffusion. Angiogenesis, the formation and growth of new blood vessel sprouts from existing vessels, is the process by which additional vascular elements are formed from an initial vascular plexus. During angiogenesis, previously quiescent endothelial cells are stimulated to exhibit migratory and proliferative phenotypes, leading to the formation of new vessel sprouts. Sprouting endothelial cells degrade their basement membrane by production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) as well as over-production of extracellular matrix protein, and form contacts with and migrate along extracellular matrix components, resulting in vessel elongation. Later, endothelial cells deposit a new basement membrane resulting in a patent, perfusion-capable capillary. The process of angiogenesis is fundamentally important to the formation of new vasculature during development, wound healing and tumorigenesis.
One goal of our research is to elucidate the roles of mechanical boundary conditions and extracellular matrix structure and composition on the process of angiogenesis. Another objective is to predict the effects of boundary conditions and extracellular matrix structure on angiogenesis using a novel computational framework known as the Material Point Method.