Small Vessels Are A Big Problem In Neurodegeneration And Neuroprotection
Erdener, Şefik Evren
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The cerebral microcirculation holds a critical position to match the high metabolic demand by neuronal activity. Functionally, microcirculation is virtually inseparable from other nervous system cells under both physiological and pathological conditions. For successful bench-to-bedside translation of neuroprotection research, the role of microcirculation in acute and chronic neurodegenerative disorders appears to be under-recognized, which may have contributed to clinical trial failures with some neuroprotectants. Increasing data over the last decade suggest that microcirculatory impairments such as endothelial or pericyte dysfunction, morphological irregularities in capillaries or frequent dynamic stalls in blood cell flux resulting in excessive heterogeneity in capillary transit may significantly compromise tissue oxygen availability. We now know that ischemia-induced persistent abnormalities in capillary flow negatively impact restoration of reperfusion after recanalization of occluded cerebral arteries. Similarly, microcirculatory impairments can accompany or even precede neural loss in animal models of several neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease. Macrovessels are relatively easy to evaluate with radiological or experimental imaging methods but they cannot faithfully reflect the downstream microcirculatory disturbances, which may be quite heterogeneous across the tissue at microscopic scale and/or happen fast and transiently. The complexity and size of the elements of microcirculation, therefore, require utilization of cutting-edge imaging techniques with high spatiotemporal resolution as well as multidisciplinary team effort to disclose microvascular-neurodegenerative connection and to test treatment approaches to advance the field. Developments in two photon microscopy, ultrafast ultrasound, and optical coherence tomography provide valuable experimental tools to reveal those microscopic events with high resolution. Here, we review the up-to-date advances in understanding of the primary microcirculatory abnormalities that can result in neurodegenerative processes and the combined neurovascular protection approaches that can prevent acute as well as chronic neurodegeneration.