Blood-nerve barrier model allows closer look at diseases affecting peripheral nerves

The cells regarded as the “gate-keepers” of the barrier between blood circulation and the peripheral nerves have been hard to study and even harder to isolate. However, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have created a laboratory model that will enable scientists to study a wide variety of diseases affecting peripheral nerves. They describe their model in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology.

Specialized vascular system

“The barrier is known as the blood-nerve barrier and it regulates how peripheral nerves work. Peripheral nerves connect the central nervous system to the muscles of the limbs and sensory organs. This ‘gate keeper’ is a specialized vascular system that allows for proper nerve function by enabling the necessary nutrients in blood to flow in and unwanted material out,” said Dr. Eroboghene E. Ubogu, assistant professor of neurology and director of the Neuromuscular Immunopathology Research Laboratory at BCM.

Ubogu, who is the senior author on the study, added that very little is known about how the human blood-nerve barrier normally works or how it is altered when the peripheral nerves are diseased. The cells that make up the blood-nerve barrier are hard to study and extract because they are surrounded by a large amount of connective tissue, are present deep within the innermost layers and represent less than 1 percent of all cells found in peripheral nerves.

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