Rinsho Shinkeigaku (Clinical Neurology)


What is cerebral small vessel disease?

Osamu Onodera, M.D., Ph.D.

Department of Molecular Neuroscience, Resource Branch for Brain Disease, Niigata University

An accumulating amount of evidence suggests that the white matter hyperintensities on T2 weighted brain magnetic resonance imaging predict an increased risk of dementia and gait disturbance. This state has been proposed as cerebral small vessel disease, including leukoaraiosis, Binswanger's disease, lacunar stroke and cerebral microbleeds. However, the concept of cerebral small vessel disease is still obscure. To understand the cerebral small vessel disease, the precise structure and function of cerebral small vessels must be clarified. Cerebral small vessels include several different arteries which have different anatomical structures and functions. Important functions of the cerebral small vessels are blood-brain barrier and perivasucular drainage of interstitial fluid from the brain parenchyma. Cerebral capillaries and glial endfeet, take an important role for these functions. However, the previous pathological investigations on cerebral small vessels have focused on larger arteries than capillaries. Therefore little is known about the pathology of capillaries in small vessel disease. The recent discoveries of genes which cause the cerebral small vessel disease indicate that the cerebral small vessel diseases are caused by a distinct molecular mechanism. One of the pathological findings in hereditary cerebral small vessel disease is the loss of smooth muscle cells, which is an also well-recognized finding in sporadic cerebral small vessel disease. Since pericytes have similar character with the smooth muscle cells, the pericytes should be investigated in these disorders. In addition, the loss of smooth muscle cells may result in dysfunction of drainage of interstitial fluid from capillaries. The precise correlation between the loss of smooth muscle cells and white matter disease is still unknown. However, the function that is specific to cerebral small vessel may be associated with the pathogenesis of cerebral small vessel disease.
Full Text of this Article in Japanese PDF (345K)

(CLINICA NEUROL, 51: 399|405, 2011)
key words: cerebral small vessel disease, pericyte, hereditary cerebral small vessel disease, perivascular space, capillary

(Received: 8-Feb-11)