Scientists prove that diseased blood vessels communicate with the brain

They were then able to follow the trace, allowing them to compare healthy mice to diseased mice and directly identify the electrical connections.

In rodents that had an experimental therapy where the connections were cut, atherosclerosis was less developed than in control mice.

Dr D’Agostino, a neuroscientist from the University of Manchester involved in the study and who is also a member of the Medical Research Council, said: “Today we have the tools not only to visualize, but also to activate or disable the nerve bundles connecting the brain with the body with unprecedented selectivity. This gives us a better understanding of how the brain and other parts of the body are interconnected during health and illness.

“The new technologies we are using are reducing the boundaries between disciplines that previously worked in isolation. And this, in the long term, could have a significant impact on the development of new therapies and ultimately improve human health.

Arteries have three layers, although plaques are only found on the innermost layer.

Scientists have long known that the innermost layers are not supplied with nerve fibers. “As such, no one has asked if nerves come into contact with arteries in atherosclerosis, so this could open up a new understanding of atherosclerosis,” says lead author Professor Andreas Habenicht, also from the University of Munich.

However, the team revealed that molecular sensors called receptors, located in the outer layer of vessels, play a key role.

Receptors recognize where plaques are and where vessels are inflamed by identifying inflammatory messengers of inflammation.

Then, receptors on nerve endings translate inflammatory signals into electrical signals via nerves to the brain.

The brain processes the signals and sends a stress signal back to the inflamed blood vessel. This negatively influences inflammation and atherosclerosis worsens.

Co-lead authors Professor Daniela Carnevale and Giuseppe Lembo, from the University of Rome and the Neuromed Institute in Italy, studied mice in which the electrical connections between a diseased artery and the brain were severed.

In mice that received the experimental therapy, atherosclerosis was less developed than in control mice.

Image: Nerve bundles in the outer layer of the diseased (adventitia) artery visualized as red, fluorescent filaments. New growing nerve bundles are visualized as green, fluorescent filaments. Image credit: Dr. Sarajo Kumar Mohanta

Picture: artery that supplies the heart with significant atherosclerosis and marked luminal narrowing.

The article Cardiovascular neuroimmune interfaces control atherosclerosis is available here DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04673-6

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