Neurovascular unit impairment in early Alzheimer's disease measured with magnetic resonance imaging

Harm J. van de Haar, Jacobus F.A. Jansen, Matthias J.P. van Osch, Mark A. van Buchem, Majon Muller, Sau May Wong, Paul A.M. Hofman, Saartje Burgmans, Frans R.J. Verhey, Walter H. Backes

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The neurovascular unit, which protects neuronal cells and supplies them with essential molecules, plays an important role in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's Disease (AD). The aim of this study was to noninvasively investigate 2 linked functional elements of the neurovascular unit, blood–brain barrier (BBB) permeability and cerebral blood flow (CBF), in patients with early AD and healthy controls. Therefore, both dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging and arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging were applied to measure BBB permeability and CBF, respectively. The patients with early AD showed significantly lower CBF and local blood volume in the gray matter, compared with controls. In the patients, we also found that a reduction in CBF is correlated with an increase in leakage rate. This finding supports the hypothesis that neurovascular damage, and in particular impairment of the neurovascular unit constitutes the pathophysiological link between CBF reduction and BBB impairment in AD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-196
Number of pages7
JournalNeurobiology of aging
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Blood–brain barrier
  • Cerebral hemodynamics
  • Dementia
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

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