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Plugging Leaks

Molecules identified that regulate the leakiness of the blood-brain barrier

18 May 2019

Plugging Leaks

When it comes to building barriers, nature comes up trumps with the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a network of blood vessels supplying the brain which only allows select nutrients to pass through, blocking everything else. However, structures in the BBB called circumventricular organs (CVOs) are considerably leakier, allowing the brain to monitor blood changes and respond by triggering sensations such as thirst and hunger. Using mice and zebrafish, researchers investigated what happens when leaky CVO vessels are tightened up. Fluorescent microscopy of zebrafish brain blood vessels (red) revealed low levels of signalling molecules involved in BBB formation (green) in the zebrafish equivalent of the CVO (far left bottom region). Genetically altering mice to produce more of these molecules tightened up leaky CVO vessels but also impaired the ability of brain cells to correctly respond to water deprivation. These insights reveal more about how our most basic needs are controlled.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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