According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death. Approximately 17.5 million people die of CVD each year. The cardiovascular system is a branched network of cellular tubes connected to a central pump, the heart. It works in tandem with the lymphatic system, which drains tissues of fluid and debris from metabolism to maintain tissue health. During CVD, arterial blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood can become occluded, which inhibits metabolism of a tissue (e.g. heart or brain) and can lead to an infarction. CVD can also be characterized by edema, where the lymphatic vessels are unable to maintain fluid homeostasis. Poorly treated diabetes mellitus can exacerbate CVD and is a significant risk factor for myocardial infarction and stroke.
Members of the Institute of Metabolic Physiology investigate the cardiovascular system on a cellular and molecular level to determine how arteries grow during development and in response to disease. They also study the molecular and cellular mechanisms during growth of lymphatic vessels to uncover how they take up extracellular fluid from tissues and conduct this fluid, including lipoproteins and immune cells, to the circulatory system.