DMSC student publishes new insights into age-related brain blood vessel loss

benschager_2020.jpgCapillary loss in the brain is a natural occurrence as we age. Until recently, however, it wasn’t clear if these losses occurred uniformly or in specific areas.  

Ben Schager, a student in Dr. Craig Brown’s laboratory, has filled in that knowledge gap. He found that blood vessel losses are more likely to occur in certain brain regions: white matter, the hippocampus, and sensory-motor related grey matter.

Schager published the findings in his Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism article “Susceptibility to capillary plugging can predict brain region specific vessel loss with aging” in early January 2020.

As the title of his article suggests, one of the reasons we lose vessels in the brain is due to routine clogs, or stalls, caused by cells and other debris in the blood. Most stalls clear within seconds, but about 30 per cent of clogged capillaries are pruned from the blood vessel network and never replaced. Obstruction and pruning of brain capillaries is normal, and thanks to Schager’s work, we now know that the brain regions more prone to clogging are those most prone to vessel loss.

This could explain why we tend to lose certain mental abilities as we age. You can read more about that correlation in this article about the Brown’s lab work on the aging brain.

You can read Schager’s JCBFM article at here. This research was also the subject of his M.Sc. thesis, which he defended two days after the article was published.