Research Highlight

Double role for nerve chemical

Subhra Priyadarshini

doi:10.1038/nindia.2008.189 Published online 28 April 2008

Formation of new blood vessels (neovascularisation) is essential for the growth and spread of cancer. Recent studies indicate that certain bone marrow cells called endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) are critical to the formation of these new blood vessels as they enter the blood circulation and get incorporated into the growing vasculature.

A group of researchers has shown for the first time that dopamine, a chemical that transmits impulses across nerves, inhibits the mobilization of these crucial cells by suppressing the synthesis of another important EPC regulator called matrix metalloproteinase-9.

"The results are significant not only because we have identified a novel peripheral function of dopamine but also because this indicates a new pharmacological use of the endogenous molecule or its agonists," says Sujit Basu, one of the lead researchers.

More importantly, because dopamine or its agonists are being used in clinics for many years with an established safety record, the findings can also be rapidly translated to the clinics for the treatment of cancer and other diseases where EPC mobilization plays an important pathogenic role, says Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, the other lead researcher.


  1. Chakroborty, D. et al. Dopamine regulates endothelial progenitor cell mobilization from mouse bone marrow in tumor vascularization. J. Clin. Invest. 118, 1380-1389 (2008)