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Summary

Haemangioma is a vascular tumour of infancy that is well known for its rapid growth during the first weeks to months of a child's life, followed by a spontaneous but slow involution. During the proliferative phase, the vessels are disorganized and composed of immature endothelial cells. When the tumour involutes, the vessels mature and enlarge but are reduced in number. Fat, fibroblasts and connective tissue replace the vascular tissue, with few, large, feeding and draining vessels evident. Both angiogenesis and vasculogenesis have been proposed as mechanisms contributing to the neovascularization in haemangioma tumours. In recent years, several of the ‘building blocks’, the cells comprising the haemangioma, have been isolated. Among them are haemangioma progenitor/stem cells, endothelial cells and pericytes. This review focuses on these cell types, and the molecular pathways within these cells that have been implicated in driving the pathogenesis of infantile haemangioma.