Deciphering the regulatory mechanisms of blood-brain barrier function.
neurological diseases • blood-brain barrier • neurovascular signalling
Benoît Vanhollebeke is professor at the Université libre de Bruxelles and manages the Neurovascular Signalling Laboratory at the Institute for Biology and Molecular Medicine. Brain function depends on close communication between the nervous system and the vascular system. The endothelial cells that comprise the brain’s blood vessels form a complex tube network that keeps neurons – which consume large amounts of energy – within a few micrometres of the nutritional elements and dissolved gases that are transported by the blood. The interface between the brain and the vascular system is very carefully regulated, in order to isolate synaptic communication from varying blood types. Thanks to its neuroprotective function, this blood-brain barrier (BBB) also acts as an obstacle to medications, which are unable to reach their target in the central nervous system. Conversely, BBB deficiencies contribute to neurological disorders, such as strokes or neurodegenerative diseases.
Benoît Vanhollebeke and his colleagues aim to gain a better understanding of neurovascular signalling, under normal and pathological conditions. They have recently characterised a specific receptor complex for endothelial brain cells. This complex is a major regulator of the neurovascular physiology of the brain. This project aims to study the signalling that relies on this receptor in the early stages of neurovascular development, as well as in the adult brain. A zebrafish model will be used to identify BBB regulators.