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Neurochem Res. 2007 Dec;32(12):2032-45. Epub 2007 Apr 25.

Cell-cell signaling in the neurovascular unit.

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  • 1Neuroprotection Research Laboratory, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, MGH East 149-2401, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Historically, the neuron has been the conceptual focus for almost all of neuroscience research. In recent years, however, the concept of the neurovascular unit has emerged as a new paradigm for investigating both physiology and pathology in the CNS. This concept proposes that a purely neurocentric focus is not sufficient, and emphasizes that all cell types in the brain including neuronal, glial and vascular components, must be examined in an integrated context. Cell-cell signaling and coupling between these different compartments form the basis for normal function. Disordered signaling and perturbed coupling form the basis for dysfunction and disease. In this mini-review, we will survey four examples of this phenomenon: hemodynamic neurovascular coupling linking blood flow to brain activity; cellular communications that evoke the blood-brain barrier phenotype; parallel systems that underlie both neurogenesis and angiogenesis in the CNS; and finally, the potential exchange of trophic factors that may link neuronal, glial and vascular homeostasis.

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