The blood-brain barrier (BBB), a collection of cells and subcellular structures in the cerebrovascular wall that separates the circulating blood from the brain, is essential to keep brain tissue in healthy condition. It regulates the delivery of important nutrients and blocks neurotoxins, while removing surplus substances from the brain. Now, a study from researchers has used contrast-enhanced MRI to identify leakages in the BBB of people with early Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The team state that their findings suggest increased BBB permeability may represent a key mechanism in the early stages of the disease.
Previous studies show blood-brain barrier leakage means that the brain has lost its protective means, the stability of brain cells is disrupted and the environment in which nerve cells interact becomes ill-conditioned. These mechanisms could eventually lead to dysfunction in the brain. The current study uses contrast-enhanced MRI to identify leakages in the blood-brain barrier of patients with early Alzheimer’s disease.
The current study used contrast-enhanced MRI to compare 16 early AD patients with 17 healthy age-matched controls. The lab measured BBB leakage rates and generated a map called a histogram to help determine the amount of the leaking brain tissue. Results show that the BBB leakage rate was significantly higher in AD patients compared with controls and the leakage was distributed throughout the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain. Data findings show that AD patients had a significantly higher percentage of leaking brain tissue in the gray matter, including the cortex, the brain’s outer layer.
The group state that they also found that measurements derived from the histogram showed very subtle BBB impairment in the brain’s white matter. Results show that a relationship between the extent of BBB impairment and decline in cognitive performance, suggesting that a compromised BBB is part of the early pathology of AD and might be part of a cascade of events eventually leading to cognitive decline and dementia. The lab note that the connection between BBB impairment and AD pathology was strengthened by the fact that the addition of diabetes and other non-cerebral vascular diseases to the analysis model did not change the results.
The team surmise that the key advantage of detecting BBB leakage with contrast MRI is that it can detect early microvascular changes in AD even in cases where no directly visible cerebrovascular abnormalities can be observed. For the future, the researchers state that for Alzheimer’s research, this means a novel tool has become available to study the contribution of blood-brain barrier impairment in the brain to disease onset and progression in early stages or pre-stages of dementia.
Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.
Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.
Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio, BioPortfolio.com, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.
Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.
Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.
An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.