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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Oct;1207:46-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05760.x.

The neurovascular unit, matrix proteases, and innate inflammation.

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  • 1Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington 98104, USA.


In the central nervous system, microvessel-neuron interactions appear highly coordinated. The rapid simultaneous responses of the microvasculature, neurons, and glia to focal ischemia in experimental ischemic stroke suggest that these responses could be viewed in a unitary fashion, rather than as individual components. The "neurovascular unit" consists of microvessels (endothelial cells-basal lamina matrix-astrocyte end-feet [and pericytes]), astrocytes, neurons and their axons, and other supporting cells that are likely to modulate the function of the "unit." Each cell component generates an inflammatory response to ischemia. Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 was first associated with hemorrhagic transformation following focal ischemia in an experimental model. A series of studies of ischemic stroke patients also suggests a relationship between MMP-9 levels and several consequences of ischemic injury, including hemorrhagic transformation. Recent experimental work suggests specific cell sources for MMP-9 generation and for matrix proteases from four distinct families that could impact neurovascular unit integrity.

© 2010 New York Academy of Sciences.

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