Within a day of gastrulation, the embryonic heart begins to beat and creates blood flow in the developing cardiovascular system. The onset of blood flow completely changes the environment in which the cardiovascular system is forming. Flow provides physiological feedback such that the developing network adapts to cue provided by the flow. Targeted inactivation of genes that alter early blood fluid dynamics induce secondary defects in the heart and vasculature and therefore proper blood flow is known to be essential for vascular development. Though hemodynamics, or blood fluid dynamics, are known to activate signaling pathways in the mature cardiovascular system in pathologies ranging from artherosclerosis to angiogenesis, the role in development has not been as intensively studied. The question arises how blood vessels in the embryos, which initially lack cells types such as smooth muscle cells, differ in their response to mechanical signals from blood flow as compared to the more mature cardiovascular system. Many genes known to be regulated by hemodynamics in the adult are important for developmental angiogenesis. Therefore the onset of blood flow is of primary importance to vascular development. This review will focus on how blood flow initiates and the effects of the mechanical signals created by blood flow on cardiovascular development.
- Cardiovascular System/embryology
- Neovascularization, Physiologic/physiology
- Regional Blood Flow/physiology