Vascular Anomalies Center | Research and Innovation

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The Vascular Anomalies Center at Boston Children's Hospital conducts research that has led to the development of new, more effective therapies-and may some day result in ways to prevent these anomalies.

  • Basic research in angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) is conducted in the laboratories formerly headed by Judah Folkman, MD, who was Scientific Director of the Vascular Anomalies Center and Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. Investigators are focused on the cause--the trigger mechanism--that initiates the growth of hemangiomas.

  • Dr. Joyce Bischoff, in Dr. Folkman's Vascular Biology Laboratory, is the principal investigator trying to solve the mystery of the cause of infantile hemangiomas. She and her team work closely with Dr. Bjorn Olsen and the Craniofacial Biology Laboratory at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Their investigations are based on the working hypothesis that hemangioma begins as a mutation in a stem cell. All three laboratories collaborate closely with the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at Universite cathlique de Louvain in Brussels, Belgium (headed by Dr. Miikkaa Vikkula).

  • The Boston-Brussels laboratories discovered the first gene that causes familial venous malformations (TIE2), another gene responsible for a more common form of cutaneous hereditary venous anomalies (glomuvenous malformation), and a gene for familial capillary-malformations with arteriovenous malformations and some forms of Parkes Weber syndrome (RASA1). These basic researchers are using tissue culture techniques and creating models of vascular anomalies in mice to understand the abnormal molecular signaling that cause malformed vascular channels. Someday soon, this basic science knowledge will be applied to control, and possibly prevent, vascular anomalies.

Clinical research conducted by investigators in the Vascular Anomalies Center has resulted in new, more effective treatments. For example, the center's investigators were the first to use interferon alpha in the treatment of children with large life- or vision-threatening hemangiomas.

  • Dr. Mulliken has described a simple technique for removal of hemangioma leaving a smaller scar than with conventional methods.

  • Dr. Fishman has developed novel approaches to control intestinal bleeding caused by certain colorectal vascular malformations, such as blue rubber bleb nevus syndrome. 

  • Dr. Alomari, employing a superlative combination of clinical, radiologic and interventional skills, has discovered several new conditions, includes CLOVES Syndrome, and pioneered new approaches to treatment.

Recently, a new paradigm developed by VAC clinicians has improved the understanding and treatment of frequently fatal liver hemangiomas

Boston Children's Researchers Identify a Genetic Cause for Cloves Syndrome

Using advanced technologies, a multidisciplinary research team consisting of geneticists, pathologists and surgeons at Boston Children's Hospital has identified the genetic basis for CLOVES syndrome, a rare congenital malformation and overgrowth disorder.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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