Luisa Iruela-Arispe and her graduate students at UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute are engaged in a fight against an array of human diseases — from diabetes to cardiovascular disease to arthritis.

If such an undertaking seems ambitious, consider that all of these diseases are directly related to how blood vessels form in our body. Through a pioneering research project that began in 1994, Iruela-Arispe hopes ultimately to improve the lives of patients with these and other diseases — by growing new, healthy blood vessels within the human body.

Iruela-Arispe's investigation takes her down to the cellular level, where, amid a complex array of genes, she searches for the "molecular tricks" that will allow her and other scientists to engineer new blood vessels, or, in the case of cancer, prevent them.

Perhaps most essential to her work is funding for the cadre of graduate students on her team. "Without them," Iruela-Arispe says, "I could not do the work that I do. They are my hands. But beyond that, it is very rewarding to watch them mature and begin contributing their own ideas."

"In my field, you ask fundamental questions,
 such as, what is it that makes a cell
 migrate? But at the same time, you can see
 possible applications of your work for
 patients. It's exciting to be contributing
 both to science and human health."

—Luisa Iruela-Arispe

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