Brains burn more energy than any other organ to produce and drive electrical signals along the filament-like brain cells that control everything from our breathing to our thoughts. In fact, neuroscientists estimate that 20% of our total energy budget is used just to keep our brains firing. And burning all that energy means brain cells need oxygen, and lots of it. A vast network of blood vessels (around 100,000 miles long) irrigates every nook of our brain ensuring it’s never starved of oxygen or nutrients. But there is still much to be learned about how vessels grow and form networks – a process called angiogenesis. Studying mouse brain (pictured), researchers have identified over 60 genes that could act as switches controlling the growth of vessels. In future, this could help stroke patients heal, or reversely, could be used to kill off brain tumours by stemming their blood supply.
Written by Tristan Farrow
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.