Dr. Henar Cuervo Grajal’s current research work is focused on understanding the functions of perivascular cells (pericytes and smooth muscle cells) in developmental, physiological and pathological conditions. She is especially interested in the role of pericytes in tumor angiogenesis, vascular retinopathies, arteriovenous malformations, and fibrosis.
During her postdoctoral training with Dr. Peter Carmeliet (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) she worked with instrumental models of developmental and pathological angiogenesis that led to increased knowledge of PlGF and PHD2 in tumor vessels and choroidal neovascularization.
Dr. Grajal advanced her expertise in vascular biology specifically in the field of Notch signaling with Dr. Rong Wang (UCSF), where she used different mouse genetic models to study angiogenesis and arteriovenous specification with a particular focus on the liver. Together, they published that endothelial-specific deletion of Notch signaling in mice results in the development of arteriovenous malformations in several vascular beds, notably in hepatic vasculature.
She extended her background experience in the roles of vascular Notch signaling with Dr. Jan Kitajewski while he was at Columbia University, with emphasis on pericytes. There, they created a model, which poised to advance the field of pericyte biology and the study of pericyte dysfunctions.