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Issue 5, 2015
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Systems biology of the microvasculature

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The vascular network carries blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen to tissues and providing a pathway for communication between distant organs. The network is hierarchical and structured, but also dynamic, especially at the smaller scales. Remodeling of the microvasculature occurs in response to local changes in oxygen, gene expression, cell–cell communication, and chemical and mechanical stimuli from the microenvironment. These local changes occur as a result of physiological processes such as growth and exercise, as well as acute and chronic diseases including stroke, cancer, and diabetes, and pharmacological intervention. While the vasculature is an important therapeutic target in many diseases, drugs designed to inhibit vascular growth have achieved only limited success, and no drug has yet been approved to promote therapeutic vascular remodeling. This highlights the challenges involved in identifying appropriate therapeutic targets in a system as complex as the vasculature. Systems biology approaches provide a means to bridge current understanding of the vascular system, from detailed signaling dynamics measured in vitro and pre-clinical animal models of vascular disease, to a more complete picture of vascular regulation in vivo. This will translate to an improved ability to identify multi-component biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring of therapy that are easy to measure in vivo, as well as better drug targets for specific disease states. In this review, we summarize systems biology approaches that have advanced our understanding of vascular function and dysfunction in vivo, with a focus on computational modeling.

Graphical abstract: Systems biology of the microvasculature

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Publication details

The article was received on 17 Dec 2014, accepted on 24 Mar 2015 and first published on 25 Mar 2015

Article type: Review Article
DOI: 10.1039/C4IB00296B
Citation: Integr. Biol., 2015,7, 498-512

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