Atlas of brain blood vessels provides fresh clues to brain diseases

Researchers from Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institute present in the journal Nature a detailed molecular atlas of the cells that form the brain’s blood vessels and the life-essential blood-brain barrier. The atlas provides new knowledge regarding the functions of the cells and the barrier, and clues to which cell types are involved in different diseases.


Filter

The vasculature of the brain is, like elsewhere on the body, made up of arteries, veins and thin, intervening vessels called capillaries through which the main exchange of oxygen, nutrients and waste products takes place. However, the vessels of the brain differ from others in one important respect – the so-called blood-brain barrier, which acts as a filter that blocks certain substances from passing through the vessel walls, thus protecting the brain from potentially toxic products while letting through whatever it needs for its structure and function.


Dysfunctional barrier

“It is becoming increasingly clear that a fully functional blood-brain barrier is essential to brain health and that a dysfunctional barrier is a factor of many brain diseases,” says study leader Christer Betsholtz, professor at Uppsala University and Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medicine, Huddinge. “The structure of the blood-brain barrier hasn’t been fully known, and so a detailed atlas of the brain’s vasculature and its barrier functionality is needed.”

 

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Source: NNR | February 19, 2018

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