Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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British Heart Foundation Reflections of Research Competition Brain Draining

Close-up on the blood vessels that serve the brain

03 October 2018

Brain Draining

These bright blue tubes are the brain’s drainage system: blood-carrying arteries known as subarachnoid vessels, lying on the spongy brown surface of the brain. Captured with a powerful super-resolution scanning electron microscope and coloured using computer software, the vital vessels are not only responsible for supplying oxygen and nutrients to hungry brain cells, but also taking away toxic waste products. Although these particular vessels are perfectly healthy, researchers are interested in finding out what happens when they don’t work properly. Unless they’re regularly washed away, harmful molecules can build up in the arteries and smaller blood vessels and cause a condition known as cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) – a key feature of the incurable neurodegenerative disease vascular dementia. By zooming in on the brain’s drains, researchers are hoping to find out how they may be involved in the development of dementia, which could lead to new ideas for treatment or prevention.

Written by Kat Arney

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