Christer Betsholtz – Developmental Genetics

Our group studies cellular and molecular mechanisms of angiogenesis, vascular permeability and other vascular functions in embryonic development, adult homeostasis and disease. We have a main focus on microvascular pericytes and perivascular fibroblasts, two distinct groups of cells that surround the blood vessels in the brain.

Pericytes are obligatory components of all blood capillaries, yet their functions in health and disease are still poorly understood. Our on-going research addresses pericyte functions in different situations in organs using in vivo and in vitro techniques. Perivascular brain fibroblasts are a newly identified group of cells, located along larger blood vessels in the brain. Their biology, origin and functional role is still to be described.

The role of brain pericytes and fibroblasts

A main goal is to understand the roles of brain pericytes and fibroblasts during normal development, in the mature and ageing brain and in disease. Our advanced genetic disease models include different neurodegenerative diseases, brain cancers, brain calcifications and vascular malformations. Main techniques used for analysis are single cell RNA sequencing, bioinformatics, immunofluorescence staining, RNA scope, confocal microscopy and image analyses.

Studies of the growth factor PDGF

The lab has long had an interest in the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) family and their roles in developmental processes. There are two different PDGF receptors, one being expressed in pericytes and the other in the perivascular fibroblasts. We continue to address the roles of PDGFs (and other growth factors), during embryonic and postnatal development, as well as in pathological processes in the adult organism. Some of our questions even go beyond vascular biology.

Read more about our projects

Vessel in the meninges, shown after different types of staining
Vessel in meninges, outside of the brain. Photo: Johanna Andrae