Sarah Childs


Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Contact information


Office: 403-220-8277

Web presence

The Childs Laboratory


Office : HSC2209

Preferred method of communication


Terry Connolly


Office: 403-220-3018

Research and teaching

Area of Focus

  • Genetics of blood vessel patterning and stabilization

Summary of Research

We are interested in angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels develop. Blood vessels first develop as naked endothelial tubes, and then acquire a coating of ‘mural’ cells (either smooth muscle cells or pericytes). Dysfunctional vessels underlie a large number of serious diseases. We focus on using developmental biology to tease out the signals that grow and stabilize new blood vessels as a means to potential therapy for blood vessel disorders. Project in vascular patterning:Blood vessels are customized for delivery of oxygen and nutrients to different organs with different architectures and metabolic needs. How do blood vessels acquire organ-specific patterns? In this project we examine the normal patterning of blood vessels during development and the molecular pathways that control their pattern. We also examine the role of patterning genes such as the PlexinD1 receptor to determine how it guides vascular development using genetic analysis of ligands and signalling pathways. We have a strong interest in GTPase control of the actin cytoskeleton in vascular development, and their particular roles in diseases such as vascular malformation. Project in vascular stabilization:The origins of mural cells are not well understood. In the head, mural cells are thought to originate in neural crest cells, but how do they migrate to specific vessels and what signals allow them to contact and ensheath endothelial cells? In this project we examine the genetic control of mural cell development. Using transgenic smooth muscle and pericyte marker lines we trace mural cell migration in real time. Loss of mural cell attachment to endothelial cells results in brain hemorrhage. We have developed mutant animals with defective vascular stabilization that are models of both hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke.


Dr. Childs obtained her undergraduate education at the University of Toronto in biochemistry before undertaking graduate work with Dr. Victor Ling in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto in molecular cancer biology. For postdoctoral work she continued her work in cancer biology at the British Columbia Cancer Research, but then moved to work on the development of blood vessels in the zebrafish model, working with Mark Fishman at the Cardiovascular Research Centre of Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard University. Since 2001 she has been in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Calgary where she studies the genetics of patterning and stabilization of blood vessels.