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Cardiovascular Psychiatry and Neurology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 615829, 9 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2011/615829
Hypothesis

The Blood-Brain Barrier and Microvascular Water Exchange in Alzheimer's Disease

1Department of Neurological Surgery, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA
2Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA
3Advanced Imaging Research Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR 97239, USA

Received 2 September 2010; Accepted 12 February 2011

Academic Editor: Daniela Kaufer

Copyright © 2011 Valerie C. Anderson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia in the elderly. Although traditionally considered a disease of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques, structural and functional changes in the microvessels may contribute directly to the pathogenesis of the disease. Since vascular dysfunction often precedes cognitive impairment, understanding the role of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in AD may be key to rational treatment of the disease. We propose that water regulation, a critical function of the BBB, is disturbed in AD and results in abnormal permeability and rates of water exchange across the vessel walls. In this paper, we describe some of the pathological events that may disturb microvascular water exchange in AD and examine the potential of a relatively new imaging technique, dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI, to quantify water exchange on a cellular level and thus serve as a probe of BBB integrity in AD.