Researchers Reverse Blood Flow Defect in Small Vessel Disease
Discovery in mouse model could 'set the stage' for treatments for dementia-related diseaseDebra Melani Jul 6, 2021
Using a grainy, black-and-white video image of a mouse brain, Fabrice Dabertrand, PhD, demonstrates how a disease responsible for upwards of 40% of all dementia cases today steals the brain’s ability to nourish cells by halting vessel dilation.
In the video, researchers attempt to stimulate a natural mechanism called functional hyperemia to dilate the rodent’s tiny arteriole by administering a solution with potassium (which plays a key role in vasodilation).
Next, a phospholipid called PIP2 is added to the wash and administered via a miniature pipette.
“And boom! Stimulation and dilation,” Dabertrand said, as the arteriole in the video instantly begins dilating, returning the blood flow to normal within 15 minutes. “It’s spectacular.”
The research has generated interest in the scientific world, with this latest study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The discovery could result in a first-of-its-kind therapeutic drug capable of slowing or halting the debilitation caused by small vessel disease (SVD).
SVD disrupts brain’s natural mechanism to redirect blood flow
“Small vessel disease is really an umbrella term that covers a large family of pathologies,” said Dabertrand, an associate professor with appointments in anesthesiology and pharmacology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. SVD drivers include genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors, ranging from mutations and smoking to hypertension and aging.
Scientists have known the vascular disorder begins with the loss of functional hyperemia, the brain’s natural response to rapidly redirect blood flow to brain regions with higher metabolic activity.
“I’m sure you’ve seen these images where they ask people to think about their mom or whatever and they say, ‘Oh, look at this region. It lights up,’” Dabertrand said to illustrate the process. “So, you have to dilate the arterioles to bring oxygen and glucose to let the brain work.”