Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Vessel Illuminations

Nerves that regulate blood pressure identified

21 October 2021

Vessel Illuminations

Surrounding every blood vessel is a thin layer of muscle which is controlled by nerves from the brain. Studying these nerves in action can be tricky because the staining procedure to highlight them usually requires removal from the body. Here, scientists have used light in two forms to study live nerve action: firstly, the nerves are genetically manipulated to activate when exposed to light – a technique called optogenetics. Secondly, when these nerves are active they produce yellow fluorescence. In this image from a mouse ear, a yellow nerve can be seen spiralling around a blue-stained blood vessel. When this nerve is activated the muscle tightens causing the vessel to narrow reducing blood flow through the vessel. This research will improve understanding of a range of common conditions where blood vessel nerve activation is defective including, high blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, migraine and fibromyalgia.

Written by Julie Webb

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