How Calcium Directs Blood Flow in Brain

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By Daniel Webster, dWeb.News

Newswise — The brain does not have enough space to store energy, unlike the rest of the body. Instead, the brain depends on the hundreds of miles worth of blood vessels to provide fresh energy via blood. The brain relies on the hundreds of miles of blood vessels within it to supply energy. The brain can’t get blood to the right places when it needs it. This leads to stress and eventually memory loss. The researchers demonstrated that electrical pulses running through the capillaries direct blood flow to the large, medium-sized arterioles. The team wanted to examine the fine-tuning blood flow through the capillaries in order to regulate energy supply to small areas of the brain. “There seem to have been two mechanisms working together to ensure that energy in blood makes it to certain regions of the brain: one broad, and one precise,” Thomas Longden, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Physiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Dr. Longden and his colleagues used a protein that emits a green light when calcium levels in cells increase. The Cornell University team of Michael Kotlikoff was instrumental in turning this tool on in mice’s blood vessels. To investigate the role of calcium in controlling blood flow within the brain’s capillaries, the researchers looked into the tiny windows in the brains these mice. The cells that line the blood vessels glow green when calcium is infused into them. They detected 5,000 calcium signals per minute in the capillaries of the tiny brain section visible through the window. This is approximately 1,000,000 responses per second throughout the entire brain’s blood vessels system. Dr. Longden says, “Before we deployed this new technology there was this wholly invisible world of calcium signaling within the brain. We now can see a ton activity within the brain’s blood vessels – it is constantly firing.” Longden and his research team then deconstructed the intricate cellular mechanism that controls blood flow through the tiny vessels in the brain. They discovered that neurons cause an increase of calcium in blood vessels lining cells when they fire electrical signals. Enzymes detect the calcium and direct cells to produce nitric dioxide. Nitric oxide, a hormone and a gas, causes muscle-like cells to relax around blood vessels. This then opens up the vessels to allow more blood to flow in. “Capillaries were thought to be simple conduits for red cells and the barrier between blood and brain,” says Mark T. Nelson (Distinguished Professor and Chair of Pharmacology, University of Vermont). “We discovered a new world of calcium signaling in capillaries. Much like traffic lights, these calcium signals direct vital nutrients towards nearby active neurons. “The first step in diagnosing diseases is to understand how the system works normally,” says E. Albert Reece MD, PhD, MBA, Executive vice president for Medical Affairs at UM Baltimore and John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The researchers now have a better understanding of how the blood flow works in Alzheimer’s and dementia. They can then investigate the causes and find solutions. Dr. Dr. Longden was recently awarded the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award by the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director. It is one of the most prominent, fastest-growing, top-tier biomedical research organizations in the world. It has 45 academic departments, centers and institutes; and a faculty of over 3,000 doctors, scientists and allied health professionals. This includes members of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, as well as a two-time winner of The Albert E. Lasker Award for Medical Research. The School of Medicine has an operating budget of over $1.2 billion and works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center to provide clinically-based, research-intensive, academic, and clinically-based care for almost 2 million patients every year. The School of Medicine has an extramural budget of more than $563million. Most of its academic departments are highly ranked among all the national medical schools for research funding. The School of Medicine is one of seven professional schools that make-up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus. It has nearly 9,000 faculty and staff. This includes 2,500 student trainees and residents. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) have an annual budget of almost $6 billion and an economic impact of more than $15 billion on both the state and the local community. The School of Medicine ranks 8th among public medical schools for research productivity. It is a pioneer in translational medicine with 600 active patents, and 24 start-up businesses. The School of Medicine is active both locally and nationally and has treatment and research facilities in 36 countries. Visit

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This article was authored by Daniel Webster using Artificial Intelligence. To learn more visit
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