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Vessel Illuminations

Nerves that regulate blood pressure identified

21 October 2021

Vessel Illuminations

Surrounding every blood vessel is a thin layer of muscle which is controlled by nerves from the brain. Studying these nerves in action can be tricky because the staining procedure to highlight them usually requires removal from the body. Here, scientists have used light in two forms to study live nerve action: firstly, the nerves are genetically manipulated to activate when exposed to light – a technique called optogenetics. Secondly, when these nerves are active they produce yellow fluorescence. In this image from a mouse ear, a yellow nerve can be seen spiralling around a blue-stained blood vessel. When this nerve is activated the muscle tightens causing the vessel to narrow reducing blood flow through the vessel. This research will improve understanding of a range of common conditions where blood vessel nerve activation is defective including, high blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, migraine and fibromyalgia.

Written by Julie Webb

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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