Stuart K. Williams
Endothelial cell structure and function in health and diseaseResearch in our laboratory has been directed toward understanding the function of vascular endothelial cells. We have developed a wide variety of techniques to study endothelial cell function ranging from molecular biology to preclinical evaluations of endothelial cell transplantation. Our arsenal of endothelial cells includes cultures established from human large blood vessels to microvessel endothelial cells isolated from numerous tissues including brain, fat, heart, kidney, liver and lung. These cells are used to evaluate unique functions of endothelium including transendothelial cell solute exchange, endothelial cell-extracellular matrix interactions, migration, and the interaction of endothelial cells with leukocytes and tumor cells. Numerous pathologic conditions are believed to involve endothelial cell dysfunction. Our laboratory has focused efforts on evaluating the effects of hyperglycemic conditions, as observed in diabetes mellitus, on endothelial cell function. We are particularly interested in how glucose modification of proteins results in altered transendothelial transport of proteins. Endothelial cells also participate actively in the process known as angiogenesis. We have developed models to evaluate several aspects of angiogenesis including endothelial cell migration in response to growth factors and extracellualr matrix, and factors which control angiogenesis in tumor growth and tumor metastasis.
A final area of research focuses on the study of endothelial cell transplantaion. These studies have reached the point of clinical trials in humans and are directed towards the development of biocompatible polymer based devices for use as artificial blood vessels. Preclinical studies are evaluating the use of endothelial cells for gene therapy and creation of artificial organoids.