7.345 Vascular Development in Life, Disease and Cancer Medicine

As taught in: Fall 2009

An image of a human retina

Precise regulation of angiogenesis is necessary for development of the eye. The image above shows a human retina. Anti-angiogenic treatments have been developed to treat conditions such as age-related macular degeneration. (Image courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health)




Dr. Alexandra Naba

Dr. Christopher Turner

Course Description

The growth of blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis, is one of the earliest events in mammalian development and is regulated by a sensitive interplay of growth factors and other molecules.

In this course, we will discuss the key molecular regulators of blood vessel development as well as the techniques and experimental systems that have been utilized by vascular biologists. We will also examine the success of several anti-angiogenic treatments that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that inhibit the pro-angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor, VEGF, and that are now being used to treat age-related macular degeneration. Finally, we will explore how during the course of cancer progression, establishment of a blood supply into a tumor can lead to the growth and spread of cancer cells to secondary sites. We will discuss the caveats and potential pitfalls of targeting tumor blood vessels to starve cancer cells and prevent the spread of cancer, which remains one of the leading causes of death in the USA.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting. Many instructors of the Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are postdoctoral scientists with a strong interest in teaching.