Two key events during evolution allowed vertebrates to develop specialized tissues able to perform complex tasks: the formation of a highly branched vascular system ensuring that all tissues receive adequate blood supply, and the development of a nervous system in which nerves branches to transmit electrical signal to peripheral organs. Both networks are laid down in a complex and stereotyped manner, which is tightly controlled by a series of shared developmental cues. Vessels and nerves use similar signals and principles to grow, differentiate and navigate toward their final targets. Moreover, the vascular and the nervous system cross-talk and, when deregulated, they contribute to medically relevant diseases. The emerging evidence that both systems share several molecular pathways not only provides an important link between vascular biology and neuroscience, but also promises to accelerate the discovery of new pathogenetic insights and therapeutic strategies.
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