Smooth Muscle Cells
Isolated smooth muscle cells
Smooth muscle cells allow arteries to rapidly contract and relax to alter blood flow, ultimately contributing to regulation of blood pressure. To dynamically alter luminal diameter, smooth muscle cells respond to IP3-generating agonists by producing Ca2+ waves, visualised in the video above. In this instance, carbachol was used to initiate a uniform rise in cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration over a single, though substantial, length of the cell (~30um). In order to finely control experimental conditions, we have the ability to patch the primary smooth muscle cell, while bringing a patch pipette close with which to administer drugs or other reagents.
Atherosclerotic plaques are populated with smooth muscle cells (SMCs) and macrophages. SMCs are thought to accumulate in plaques because fully differentiated, contractile SMCs reprogramme into a ‘synthetic’ migratory phenotype, so-called phenotypic modulation, whilst plaque macrophages are thought to derive from blood-borne myeloid cells. Following the fate of SMCs is complicated by the lack of specific markers for the migratory phenotype, therefore we employed long-term, high-resolution, time-lapse microscopy to track the fate of unambiguously identified, fully-differentiated, contractile SMCs in response to the growth factors present in serum.