DZHK Scientists of the LMU have demonstrated for the first time that nerve signals are exchanged between arteries and the brain in atherosclerosis. They report in Nature that arteries containing plaques conveyed signals via nerves to the brain. After processing the brain's signals, signals make their way back to the blood vessel.
In atherosclerosis, plaques form on the inner layer of the vessels. This causes inflammation on the outside of the vessels. The peripheral nervous system responds to such inflammation. The team discovered that molecular sensors known as receptors play a key role. Receptors are located in the outer layer of the vessels. They recognize where plaques are located and where vessels are inflamed by identifying the inflammatory messengers of the inflammation.
Then they translate the inflammatory signals into electrical signals via nerves to the brain. The brain processes the signals and sends a stress signal back to the inflamed blood vessel. This negatively influences the inflammation, and the atherosclerosis gets worse.
This previously unknown electrical circuit between the arteries and the brain is potential of enormous significance. The researchers cut the electrical connection between a diseased artery and the brain in the animal experiment and the rodents had less pronounced atherosclerosis after eight months than the animals in the control group. In the long term, the researchers hope to be able to treat the causes of atherosclerosis.