Recent research published in in the journal Developmental Cell has demonstrated the presence of special proteins located in the small vessels of the brain is likely to influence the risk of stroke in mice.
Peter Carlsson along with his research team has investigated the development of the blood brain barrier and what makes the capillaries in the brain different from other vessels in other organs.
The study found that the brain capillary wall is much more compact when compared to other small blood vessels. Moreover, the nerve cells present in the brain obtain nutrients by a process termed active transport (requiring energy), rather than passive diffusion from blood vessels.
The main function of the blood brain barrier is to protect the neurons from potentially hazardous and undesirable substances from the blood vessels to enter the brain. In the absence of normal functioning of the blood brain barrier, the risk of stroke significantly increases along with other complications.
Pericytes are cells that reside on the wall of the blood vessels and their primary function is to maintain the vessel integrity. They have a major role in the development of the blood brain barrier. Despite pericytes being located in other organs, researchers have failed to highlight the difference between the brains pericytes and organ pericytes.
Current research by Gothenburgs research team has identified the protein Foxf2 is vital for the development and maintenance of the blood brain barrier. In addition Foxf2 is necessary for the differentiation of brain pericytes, which is absent in pericytes of other organs.
Peter Carllson research study showed that mice with altered levels of FoxF2 are prone to defects in blood vessels of the brain.
Major alterations in Chromosome 6 have been correlated to an increase risk of stroke. Researchers have not yet identified the exact genes noted to increase the risk. However, Carlsson suggests the FoxF2 is a gene of importance in relating variations within this gene to the risk of stroke.
“The FoxF2 gene is an extremely interesting candidate, as it is located right in the middle of this region, and research is under way now in collaboration with clinical geneticists to investigate the extent to which variations in the FoxF2 gene affect people’s risk of suffering a stroke,” says Peter Carlsson.