The way in which multiple cell types organize themselves into a carefully sculpted, 3D labyrinth of vessels that regulate blood flow throughout the body has been a longstanding mystery. Clinicians familiar with congenital cardiovascular disease recognize how genetic variants and modest perturbations in this complex set of spatiotemporal interactions and stochastic processes can result in life-threatening anomalies. Although the mystery is not yet fully solved, we are poised at an exciting juncture, as insights from murine disease models are converging with advances in human genetics to shed new light on puzzling clinical phenotypes of vascular disease. The study by High et al. in this issue of the JCI establishes a model system that mimics clinical features of congenital cardiovascular disease and further defines the role of the Notch signaling pathway in the neural crest as an essential determinant of cardiovascular structure (see the related article beginning on page 353).
Leonard M. Anderson, Gary H. Gibbons
Schematic representation of Notch signaling in neural crest cells that differentiate into VSMCs within the aortic arch during embryonic development.