Scientists and health professionals believe that the blood flow within the brain is chiefly controlled by the dilation and constriction of the arterioles which further branch out to form smaller conduits called capillaries. This is now challenged by a biomedical science research based in UCL which concluded that the changes in the diameter of capillaries are influenced by the tightening or loosening of cells called pericytes which are found around the capillaries themselves.
The study, which was carried out by scientists from UCL, Oxford University and the University of Copenhagen, concluded that pericytes are the main regulator of blood flow to the brain. Additionally, after an episode of stroke, the cells tighten and die around the capillaries thus compromising the blood flow to the area. This may cause long term damage to the brain cells which in turn may lead to permanent disabilities.
Professor David Attwell of UCL’s Department of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology, who led the team explained that although clinicians are able to remove clots which compromise blood flow to the brain if the patient have reached the hospital early enough, the constriction of the blood supply induced by the tightening of the pericytes around the capillaries may still cause further damage even after the clot was removed.
Through this study in biomedical science research, the team was able to demonstrate the properties of certain compounds to halve pericyte death. The data was derived from stroke simulation in the laboratory. Attwell pointed out that this research may open the doors for novel therapeutic strategies which may be able to target the pericytes and lead to the development of biomedical science innovations.
Professor Alastair Buchan, Dean of Medicine and Head of the Medical Sciences Division at Oxford University and study co-author stated that drugs can now be identified which may prevent the pericytes from dying. Through this, he says, blood flow to the brain may be restored to normal and the progressive neurological damage caused by the stroke may be prevented.