A special protein, called FoxF2, found in the brain's tiniest blood vessels may increase the risk of stroke, suggested a new study. FoxF2 is found in the brain's capillaries and is essential for the development of the blood-brain barrier.
Peter Carlsson, professor at the University of Gothenburg's department of chemistry and molecular biology, said, "Mice that have too little or too much FoxF2 develop various types of defects in the brain's blood vessels."
After conducting mice studies, the researchers found how the blood-brain barrier develops and what makes the capillaries in the brain different from small blood vessels in other organs. They found that the brain's smallest blood vessels differ from those in other organs in that the capillary walls are much more compact. The nerve cells in the brain were found to get the nutrients they need by molecules actively being transported from the blood, instead of passively leaking out from the blood vessels. This blood-brain barrier was vital, because it imposes strict control over the substances with which the brain's nerve cells come into contact.
Carlsson said, "It has a protective function that, if it fails, increases the risk of stroke and other complications. The research is now underway in collaboration with clinical geneticists to investigate the extent to which variations in the FoxF2 gene affect people's risk of suffering a stroke."
The research is published in the Developmental Cell.