Formation, expansion and functional adaptation of vascular networks are critical for development and physiology in vertebrates. How endothelial cells orchestrate their behavior to form the shape and size of individual vessels and establish the hierarchical branching pattern of functional networks remains poorly understood. Using a combination of in vivo cell biology experimentation and generative computational modelling, our lab uncovered a series of fundamental principles of endothelial cell behavior driving the first steps of branching and lumen formation, as well as subsequent remodeling to achieve functional patterning. The surprising dynamics of endothelial rearrangements in already perfused vessels suggest that vessel adaptations rely on differential migration of cells to reshape vessels in response to changing flow conditions. I will discuss concepts and insights into how and when these mechanisms switch from adaptive to maladaptive, leading to vessel dysmorphia in disease.
Holger Gerhardt completed his PhD in Cell Biology in 2000 in Tübingen, Germany.
During his post-doctoral research with Christer Betsholtz at Gothenburg University, Sweden, Dr. Gerhardt conceptualized the endothelial tip and stalk cells; a discovery that kick-started his work on endothelial guidance and vascular patterning. His primary research aim is to unravel fundamental principles and molecular regulation of functional blood vessel network formation in health and disease. In 2004, he became a group leader at the London Research Institute-Cancer Research UK. He is an EMBO Young Investigator and recipient of the prestigious Lister Prize, Walter Fleming Medal, Judah Folkman Award of the North American Vascular Biology organization and Hooke Medal of the British Society of Cell Biology. In 2010 he opened a second lab at the VIB Vesalius Research Center at KU Leuven in Belgium to integrate basic discovery science on angiogenesis with disease models in oncology. Since 2014, Dr. Gerhardt is a research group leader at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine and Professor of Experimental Cardiovascular Research at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. He further holds professorships at the Berlin Institute of Health and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research