Study, published in PloS ONE, found vascular leakage in early- and late-stage mice models.

The blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) is functionally impaired in areas of motor neuron damage in mice modeling both early- and late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), report researchers at the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair.

The blood-brain barrier and the BSCB control the exchange of substances between the blood and the central nervous system. In the most recent study, the researchers examined the functional competence of the BSCB in ALS mice by intravenously injecting a blue dye tracer into mice in different stages of the disease.

“We detected vascular leakage in the cervical and lumbar spinal cord microvessels of ALS mice not only at the end-stage of disease but also in those with early disease symptoms,” says lead author Svitlana Garbuzova-Davis, Ph.D., assistant professor at the center. “This may suggest that large molecules such as the antibody IgG and other blood proteins appear in the spinal cord due to vascular leakage, one possible mechanism accelerating motor neuron damage.”

Furthermore, the study found decreased expression of the glucose transporter Glut-1 and the immunological markers CD146 for endothelial cells and GFAP for astrocytes, which may relate to vascular leakage, according to the investigators.

However, Dr. Garbuzova-Davis adds, questions remain: “Is the BSCB altered before disease symptoms and other pathological processes begin in ALS, and does the protective barrier’s breakdown play a primary role in the development of ALS?”

The study appears online in PLoS ONE.

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