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Obesity and its comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders are the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Metabolic diseases cause vascular dysfunction and loss of capillaries termed capillary rarefaction. Interestingly, obesity seems to affect capillary beds in an organ-specific manner, causing morphological and functional changes in some tissues but not in others. Accordingly, treatment strategies targeting capillary rarefaction result in distinct outcomes depending on the organ. In recent years, organ-specific vasculature and endothelial heterogeneity have been in the spotlight in the field of vascular biology since specialized vascular systems have been shown to contribute to organ function by secreting varying autocrine and paracrine factors and by providing niches for stem cells. This review summarizes the recent literature covering studies on organ-specific capillary rarefaction observed in obesity and metabolic diseases and explores the underlying mechanisms, with multiple modes of action proposed. It also provides a glimpse of the reported therapeutic perspectives targeting capillary rarefaction. Further studies should address the reasons for such organ-specificity of capillary rarefaction, investigate strategies for its prevention and reversibility and examine potential signaling pathways that can be exploited to target it.


Satu Paavonsalo, Sangeetha Hariharan, Madeleine H Lackman, Sinem Karaman. Capillary Rarefaction in Obesity and Metabolic Diseases-Organ-Specificity and Possible Mechanisms. Cells. 2020 Dec 14;9(12)

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PMID: 33327460

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