Final Report Summary - MATRIX (In silico and in vitro Models of Angiogenesis: unravelling the role of the extracellular matrix)
The MAtrix project stands for “In silico and in vitro Models of Angiogenesis: unraveling the role of the extracellular matrix”. In this project, we have developed innovative computational (“in silico”) and experimental (“in vitro”) methods to quantify forces that cells are exerting on their surrounding extracellular matrix. Knowing these forces is very important, as it has become evident that they play a crucial role for cell function in health and disease. In MAtrix, we have studied the role of these forces for angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels from the existing vasculature, and which is fundamental to normal tissue growth, repair and disease. By combining advanced optical microscopy, image processing and computational modelling we were able to quantify the forces exerted by endothelial cells while they are making new blood vessels. We also demonstrated that blood vessel formation is compromised when the cells’ ability to apply force is affected. The established methods can be used to further unravel the interplay between cellular forces and the extracellular matrix during angiogenesis, which is particularly interesting for a better understanding of diseases that affect cellular forces, extracellular matrix properties or both.