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Molecular Medicine Programme | Obesity

Metabolic Homeostasis and Vascular Calcification (METABOL)

Ricardo Villa Bellosta
Group Leader | Ramón y Cajal Researcher
Lab: PSSL7
Field of knowledge

Vascular calcification, the pathological calcification of cardiovascular structures, is one of the most important factors determining patients' mortality around the world. Although different mechanisms on pathogenesis of vascular calcification have been proposed, our understanding of the calcification pathogenesis is far from complete. However, in recent years, some risk factors are emerging, including elevated serum phosphorus and defective synthesis of pyrophosphate. In our laboratory, we are interested in the role of phosphate and pyrophosphate homeostasis in vascular calcification. Given that vascular calcification is a problem with a remarkably high health and socioeconomic impact on society, our research will improve the health and well-being of citizens

Research Lines

  • Investigate the molecular mechanisms that control vascular calcification in the arterial wall in aging, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and accelerated aging (Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome).
  • Evaluating new markers and risk factors for vascular calcification, which should help in the design of new diagnostic methods and new therapeutic strategies against this devastating disease.



Alicia Flores Roco
FPI fellowship
Belinda María Lago Vallejo
Xunta de Galicia fellowship
Iria Vida González Vázquez
PhD student

Selected publications

Role of the extracellular ATP/pyrophosphate metabolism cycle in vascular calcification.

Ricardo Villa-Bellosta

Vascular Calcification: Key Roles of Phosphate and Pyrophosphate

Ricardo Villa-Bellosta

Dietary magnesium supplementation improves lifespan in a mouse model of progeria

Ricardo Villa-Bellosta

New insights into endogenous mechanisms of protection against arterial calcification

Ricardo Villa-Bellosta

ATP-based therapy prevents vascular calcification and extends longevity in a mouse model of Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome

Ricardo Villa-Bellosta

Selected Results

Figure 1. Representative images of typical vascular calcifications. (A) Computerized tomography (CT) angiography: 3D volume-rendered image shows calcification in the aortic-iliac axis (white) in a haemodialysis patient. (B–D) Curved MIP (maximum intensity projection) views. Cardiac-CT scan shows calcification in the right coronary artery (B) and in the Cx and LAD (C) (arrows). (D) Supra-aortic CT scan shows calcification in the internal and common carotid arteries (arrows). Ao, Aorta; RCA, right coronary artery; LAD, left anterior descending artery; Cx, circumflex artery; LM, left main artery; SA, subclavian artery; CCA, common carotid artery; ICA, internal carotid artery; ECA, external carotid artery. Villa-Bellosta et al. Eur Heart J. 2017.


Figure 2. Schematic representation of a model for vascular calcification. Calcium phosphate crystals deposition depends of equilibrium between concentration of inorganic phosphate (Pi) and synthesis of inhibitors (including pyrophosphate, PPi). Vascular calcification could be induced by (i) lack of synthesis of calcium phosphate crystal inhibitors (e.g. increased PPi degradation via alkaline phosphatase) or (ii) elevated serum Pi concentration (e.g. chronic kidney disease). Villa-Bellosta et al. Eur Heart J. 2017.


Figure 3. Pyrophosphate synthesis increases in VSMCs during phosphate-induced calcification because of compensatory regulation of extracellular pyrophosphate metabolism. Villa-Bellosta. ATVB. 2018.


Figure 4.  Characterization of phosphate-induced calcification and pyrophosphate/ATP hydrolysis in cultured ex vivo aortic rings. A), Representative images of hematosine and eosin (H&E), van Gieson, or trichrome staining performed on aortic rings’ histological section. B), Calcification of normal and devitalized aortic rings (measured as 45-calcium incorporation) incubated ex vivo in minimum essential medium media containing 1 or 2 mmol/L phosphate and 45-calcium as radiotracer for 6 d (top) in the absence or presence of 100 μmol/L levamisole (+Lev) or 100 μmol/L pyrophosphate (+PPi). Representative images (original ×20 magnification) of Alizarin Red or von Kossa staining, performed on aortic rings’ histological section (bottom). C), 45-calcium incorporation in devitalized aortic rings at the indicated concentration of phosphate (top, 1 mmol/L calcium) or calcium (bottom, 2 mmol/L phosphate). D), 32PPi (32-pyrophopshate) hydrolysis at the indicated time in normal and devitalized aortic rings (top), and effects of 100 μmol/L levamisole (+Lev) on pyrophosphate hydrolysis (bottom). E), Kinetic characterization of 32PPi (top) or [γ32P]ATP (bottom) hydrolysis at the indicated inorganic pyrophosphate (PPi) and ATP concentration in normal aortic rings. Villa-Bellosta. ATVB. 2018.


Figure 5. Magnesium improves LmnaG609G/+ vascular smooth muscle cell calcification. A) Scheme showing the principle of the measurement. B) Representative time‐course of 2 mM phosphate on calcification of LmnaG609G/+ VSMCs (up). Calcification was visualized with Alizarin red. Representative microscopic images (10x) showing calcification of treated and untreated LmnaG609G/+ VSMCs (down). C–F) Measures of calcium in treated living LmnaG609G/+ VSMCs (C), treated fixed LmnaG609G/+ VSMCs (D), untreated living LmnaG609G/+ VSMCs (E), and untreated fixed LmnaG609G/+ VSMCs (F). G) The calcification inhibitory capacity was calculated as the difference in calcium deposition between living and fixed cells (ΔCa2+). Villa-Bellosta. EMBO mol med. 2020.


International project(s)

Progeria and vascular calcification: diet and treatments
REF: 2022-85Duration: -
PI: Ricardo Villa Bellosta

National project(s)

Homeostasis metabólica y calcificación vascular
REF: ED431F 2022/03Duration: -
PI: Ricardo Villa Bellosta
Calcificacion Vascular en enfermedades asociadas con el envejecimiento.
REF: RYC2019-027920-IDuration: -
PI: Ricardo Villa Bellosta
Envejecimiento y calcificacion vascular: diagnostico, marcadores y tratamiento - RETOS 2020
REF: PID2020-113603RB-I00Duration: -
PI: Ricardo Villa Bellosta