Researching how exercise creates blood vessels in adults

Imagine if victims of stroke and heart attack, unable to exercise due to their condition, could still reap the healthy benefits of working out. Tara Haas (right) of York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science is working to make this dream a reality. She is studying how exercise stimulates the creation of blood vessels.

While most blood vessels are generated during the embryonic phase of development, physical exercise can create new blood vessels in adults. The smallest blood vessels, called capillaries, are composed of endothelial cells that detect both the “stretch” and increased blood flow that muscle experiences during exercise. The endothelial cells then convert these mechanical stimuli into signaling pathways that lead to the transcription of genes. This transcription of genes is necessary for the proliferation and migration of endothelial cells, which in turn results in the formation of new blood vessels.

Haas will publish her findings in an upcoming article in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. She is one of the few researchers studying the link between mechanical stimuli and blood vessel formation. Her work may eventually help other scientists develop ways using pharmacological agents to reproduce the mechanical stimuli afforded by exercise. This, in turn, could provide new ways to induce blood vessel growth. As a result, sufferers of strokes and heart attacks, unable to exercise due to their condition, could be able to achieve the physiological benefit of rigorous exercise.


The above article was submitted to YFile by Jason Guriel, York’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada SPARK student (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge). Guriel, a second-year graduate student in English, will be writing stories on York NSERC-funded researchers throughout the year.

SPARK is a program that was launched in 1999 at 10 universities across Canada. Through SPARK, students with an aptitude for communications are recruited, trained and paid to write stories based on the NSERC-supported research at participating universities. Information on the NSERC Spark Student program is available at