High blood pressure is a typical risk factor for dementia. Why is that? What is the relationship between blood flow and dementia? These are the questions that Dr. Gabor Petzold is investigating at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Bonn. He is also Senior Physician at the Clinic for Neurology, where he is responsible for the outpatient clinic for vascular diseases.
Each brain activity consumes oxygen, which is carried by the blood to the brain. The blood flow is carefully regulated: When activity increases in a brain region there is a corresponding increase in blood flow in the same region. Impaired regulation of blood flow may lead to vascular dementia – a disease mainly characterized by slowing of mental activity. A relationship between cerebral blood flow and disease can be observed in other dementias as well. Petzold will examine these correlations in vascular dementia, in CADASIL (a congenital vascular disease), in symptoms of dementia following stroke, and in Alzheimer’s disease.
Petzold’s work has already provided some new insights into the cellular and molecular bases of the neural regulation of blood flow. For instance, he has shown the importance of astrocytes in the regulation mechanism. Astrocytes are cells that enclose blood vessels and are in contact with synapses, whose signals they transmit to the blood vessels. In Alzheimer’s patients, the signaling pathway regulating blood flow may be impaired. Although the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is considered to be abnormal protein deposition in the brain, impaired blood flow is assumed to accelerate the progress of the disease. Investigations have revealed that impaired cerebral blood flow occurs early on, before the symptoms of the disease appear. Timely intervention could hence delay the progress of the disease.
The exact molecular causes of vascular dementia or symptoms of dementia following a stroke are still unknown. Using highly sophisticated imaging technologies, which allow the observation of cells in vivo, Petzold and his research team plan to examine these diseases more closely with adequate models, thus hoping to obtain clues to potential new treatments. Another aim of the group is to develop new clinical therapies and diagnostics based on their research findings.
Petzold completed his specialization in neurology at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin. From 2005 to 2008 he conducted research at Harvard University; afterward he returned to the Charité, where he worked mainly as a physician. In Bonn, Petzold will divide his time between the lab and the clinic, and in this double capacity build a bridge between research and patient care.Contact information:
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