For the first time, LMU scientists have demonstrated that nerve signals are exchanged between arteries and the brain in atherosclerosis.
Laboratoriies across the world are conducting research into the disease Atherosclerosis. However, their attention is focused on cholesterol, fibrous tissue, and immune cells that form on the inner layer of arteries. These plaques gradually restrict the lumen of the arteries, thus that less oxygen may arrive to the body tissue. Heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral occlusive disease (smokers leg) are among the known hazards.
No one has asked if there is a direct connection between the artery and the brain, the obvious reason being that atherosclerotic plaques are not innervated, according to Dr. Sarajo K. Mohanta from the LMU Institute for Cardiovascular Prevention. However, it is precisely such a connection that he has now managed to demonstrate withProfessor Andreas Habenicht, also from the LMU Institute for Cardiovascular Prevention, Prof. Christian Weber, Director of the institute, and an international team
The researchers at InNature discuss signals that are transmitted from plaques via nerves to the brain after processing of the signals in the brain. Signals make their way back to the blood vessel.
A completely new understanding of atherosclerosis
Background information: The arterial walls are made up of three components, an outer layer, a middle layer, and an inner layer. Plaques are discovered in the inner layer. Observations indicate that the peripheral nervous system is not in contact with arterials in the case of atherosclerosis.
In his research group, Mohanta, who was the lead scientist responsible for the project, says what happens on the outer walls of arteries in patients who are affected by atherosclerosis. Basically, atherosclerosis is not just a plaque, but a chronic inflammation of the whole artery.
The peripheral nervous system responds to such inflammation. Habenichts discovered that molecular sensors known as receptors play a vital role. They then identify where plaques are located and where vessels are inflamed by identifying the inflammatory messengers of the inflammation. This affects the inflammation and causes the atherosclerosis to worsen.
Long-term possibilities for treatment of atherosclerosis causes
Carnevale severed the electrical connection between an artery and the brain in an animal experiment. Eight months later, she compared treated mice with placebo mice. Atherosclerosis was in fact less developed than in control mice. However, this may well be a long line off.
As their next step, scientists want to learn how exactly the peripheral nervous system is organized and how other receptors play. There are also numerous indications that the interface between brain and diseased blood vessels is regulated by stress. Accordingly, Habenicht is planning to investigate neurobiological aspects: Which cells in the brain are responding to diseased blood vessels? And with which regions of the brain are these cells connected in turn?