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The funambulist gatekeeper

By Elisa Vazquez
6 April, 2020

Confocal microscope image of a pericyte (cyan) stretching out in an attempt to cover two adjacent capillaries (magenta) in the brain. This picture is taken from a pericyte deficient mouse model and would be an unusual sight in a healthy brain where virtually all blood vessels are covered by pericytes.



Blood vessels in the brain have developed a special barrier In order to protect the brain form potentially neurotoxic substance, the so called Blood -brain-Barrier (BBB). This barrier tightly regulates the transport of necessary nutrients into the brain, efficiently clears the brain from metabolic waste products and bounce back any unwanted substances into the blood. Brain blood vessels consist of several cell types. Endothelial cells, which form the vessel wall and are in direct contact with the blood; Pericytes, which wrap around the endothelial cells and astrocytes, which connect to blood vessels via their endfeet. Pericytes play an important role in the stabilization of blood vessels and are critical regulators of the BBB. Pericyte deficiency or death is a hallmark of numerous diseases including diabetic retinopathy, Alzheimer’s disease and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Because of its crucial role, the BBB and its numerous cellular components is intensively studied. Understanding its function in the healthy and diseased brain is a prerequisite for the development  of novel treatments strategies.

About the author:
Elisa is a PhD student in Christer Betsholtz group at the Rudbeck laboratory. She studies the role of blood vessels in glioblastoma brain tumors. To achieve this she compares gene expression pattern of healthy and glioblastoma blood vessels using single cell RNA sequencing.

Elisa Vázquez Liébanas
Uppsala University
Dept. Immunology, Genetics and Pathology
Rudbeck Laboratory C11
Dag Hammarskjölds Väg 20
751 85 Uppsala