Report: Small Blood Vessels: Big Health Problems? Workshop

Report: Small Blood Vessels: Big Health Problems? Workshop

September 18-19, 2014Small Blood Vessel enervation of the central nervous system
John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
Sponsors: NINDS, NHLBI, NEI, Office of Disease Prevention, Office of Research on Women’s Health

The Small Blood Vessels: Big Health Problems? Workshop was co-sponsored by multiple institutes and offices across NIH following the creation of a trans-NIH small vessel biology and disease working group, co-chaired by Drs. Francesca Bosetti and Zorina Galis. From 9/18-9/19/2014, 350 scientists and clinicians gathered at the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland to share the latest discoveries and common challenges, as well as forge new collaborations in the arena of small blood vessel research. This inter-disciplinary workshop highlighted the importance of blood vessel science through seven sessions that ranged from basic biology to disease and research tools and innovations. Additionally, the Microcirculatory Society partnered with workshop by providing travel awards to junior faculty and post-doctoral fellows in an effort to engage early-career investigators in the discussions.

Small blood vessels are a critical part of the vascular system throughout the entire body and brain. The vessels and their endothelium vary widely in structure, organization, and function depending on the organ system in which they are located. The complex mechanisms that regulate small blood vessels are subject to myriad genetic and environmental perturbations that can result in vessel occlusion, disease, and death. An over-arching theme of this workshop was acknowledgement of the diversity of small blood vessels and the need to integrate research findings across model systems, organ systems, and even scientific techniques in order to advance the field.

Talks by over 50 speakers from institutes at NIH and beyond covered the following topics:

See the video cast:

In each session, researchers highlighted unique facets of small blood vessel science, but also shared novel tools and techniques and commented on gaps in current understanding. Investigators explored pathological processes like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and vascular cognitive impairment across the sessions, and discussed techniques like dynamic contrast enhanced MRI, fluorescent imaging, in vitro modeling, and transgenic animal models.

Following the presentations, the academic chairs of each session presented take-home messages to the audience to inform future efforts. The group focused on the need to identify sufficient biomarkers for small blood vessel diseases throughout the body, encouraging the associated development of appropriate animal models that include consideration of sex differences. The scientists also noted challenges in visualizing the vessels adequately across organ systems, and stressed the importance of remembering that though small blood vessels are often unique, the systems are often interconnected. Finally, all moderators, including representatives from the NINDS and NHLBI Office of the Director, championed continued collaboration across the field, and attendees were encouraged to contact the workshop organizers with updates on new ideas and partnerships they develop.