UCLA researchers have discovered a non-invasive method to measure vascular compliance, or how stiff an artery is, in the human brain, a finding that may have ramifications for preventing stroke and the early diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease.
Using a new MRI technique, the UCLA team measured the volume of cerebral arteries twice using a technique called Arterial Spin Labeling, which can magnetically “label” the blood in arteries without the use of an external agent. The team measured once at the systolic phase of the cardiac cycle, when the heart was pumping the blood into the brain, and again at the diastolic phase, when the heart was relaxing.
That team found that the stiffer the arteries were, the smaller the change in the arterial blood volume between the two cardiac phases, because stiff arteries are not as able to change shape or comply with the blood pressure changes as elastic arteries are, said study senior author Danny J.J. Wang, an associate professor of neurology and a researcher in the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA. “Vascular compliance is a useful marker for a number of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes,” Wang said. “Growing evidence suggests intracranial vascular pathology also may be associated with the origin and progression of cerebrovascular disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. However, to date, few methods are available to assess it.”
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