Belgian researchers explain how the brain's blood vessels are formed


A team from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) has discovered that the blood vessels that supply the brain are formed in a unique way. Their study opens up new prospects for therapeutic approaches.

Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, are the leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for around 18 million deaths a year. This is why researchers are constantly striving to understand how the cardiovascular system develops and functions.

A team from ULB, led by Prof. Benoît Vanhollebeke, has just made an important discovery. Contrary to the generally accepted idea that blood vessels form in a similar way throughout the body, the Belgian scientists have discovered that those irrigating the brain obey different and unique rules.

Cerebral blood vessels are in fact equipped with a specific enzyme that they need to invade the brain.  "What I find interesting about this study is that the control of cerebral vascularisation that we have revealed allows, at the same time, the vessels to acquire specific properties adapted to the cerebral environment, which we call the blood-brain barrier. So there seems to be a functional alignment between the very formation of vessels and their specific functions," explains Prof. Benoît Vanhollebeke.
The identification of this mechanism therefore offers hope that it will one day be possible to develop therapeutic approaches that specifically target cerebral vessels; this represents a major clinical challenge in many neurological pathologies.