Vascular Imaging Group

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Our Scientific Drive

Understanding Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide, accounting for 31% of deaths globally. It is well established that conditions such as hypertension and diabetes negatively affect blood vessel function, increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Our research involves the development and use of state-of-the-art techniques to try and understand what changes occur in blood vessels contributing to cardiovascular disease, and how these changes might be resolved.

The Brain of the Cardiovascular System

All arteries and veins contain three layers; the outer layer is connective tissue that supports the vessel, the middle layer contains the smooth muscle cells which allows the artery to quickly contract and relax to alter blood flow, whilst the innermost layer is called the endothelium. Although the endothelium consists of only a single layer of cells, just a few microns thick, it is a sophisticated control centre for the cardiovascular system. By receiving, filtering and processing incoming signals, the endothelium is able to control almost every element of cardiovascular function. Cardiovascular disease occurs predominantly as a result of dysfunction within the endothelium.

Studying the Endothelium

The endothelium is notoriously difficult to study as the cells reside on the innermost face of blood vessels, many of which are very small and inaccessible. We have developed new technologies and analysis methods to visualize and study the endothelium providing views into its workings that were not previously possible.

We have discovered that the endothelium operates much like the interconnected network of a modern telecommunication system that detects and relays signals throughout the cardiovascular system. It is the breakdown of this communication system which leads to the development of endothelial dysfunction. We are now able to identify and characterize the defects that underlie this breakdown with a clarity not previously possible, opening doors to new avenues of treatment for cardiovascular disease.


Professor John McCarron

University of Strathclyde 

161 Cathedral Street

Glasgow, G4 0RQ