Hillman explained how once they realized the importance of endothelial signaling in the regulation of blood flow in the brain they wondered if overlooking vascular endothelium may have affected their results
"As we identified this pathway, so many things fell into place," she continues, "We really hope that our work will encourage others to take a closer look at the vascular endothelium in the brain. So far, we think that our findings have far-reaching and really exciting implications for neuroscience, neurology, cardiovascular medicine, radiology, and our overall understanding of how the brain works."
This research was carried out in Hillman's Laboratory for Functional Optical Imaging, led by PhD student and lead author on the study, Brenda Chen. Other lab members who assisted with the study included PhD and MD/PhD students from Columbia Engineering, Neurobiology and Behavior, and Columbia University Medical Center. The group combined their engineering skills with their expertise in neuroscience, biology, and medicine to understand this new aspect of brain physiology.
"Our finding unifies what is known about blood flow regulation in the rest of the body with how it is regulated in the brain," Hillman explains. "This has wider reaching implications since there are many disease states known to affect blood flow regulation in the rest of the body that, until now, were not expected to directly affect brain health." For instance, involvement of the endothelium might explain neural deficits in diabetics; a clue that could lead to new diagnostics tests and treatments for neurological conditions associated with broader cardiovascular problems.