Unused blood vessels disappear over time
Our vascular system efficiently transports nutrients, hormones, and other resources through our body. A German research team has just discovered that vessels have a kind of memory and can remember a stroke, for example.
In a recent study, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen and the Technical University of Munich found that our body’s network of blood vessels is constantly adapting over time. time, forming a kind of memory. The research results were recently published in the journal Physical Review Letter.
Why our vascular system should be fully utilized
The central conclusion of the study is that the structure of the blood vessel system is dynamic and can adapt to external factors. Unused connections in this system gradually become weaker over time and eventually disappear altogether.
“We found that the strength of a connection within a network depends on the local flow”, explains Karen Alim, author of the corresponding study. According to her, this means that below a certain threshold, connections with a small flow will become weaker and weaker until they finally disappear.
The findings suggest that our blood vessels should still be used efficiently whenever possible because, according to the working group, the amount of biological building blocks for building the vascular system is limited. Degraded blood vessels cannot be renewed, or only partially, when they are needed again.
Changes in blood vessels are difficult to reverse
As the researchers point out, once the network connection has become weak due to low flow, it is very difficult to restore an unused blood vessel.
How a stroke changes the network of blood vessels
Deposits in blood vessels can cause a vein to become blocked, which in the worst case can trigger a heart attack or stroke. After a stroke, some blood vessels in the brain become severely weakened, according to the study, because blood flow is severely reduced by the blockage.
“We found that in such a case, the network adjustments are permanent and persist even after the removal of the obstacle,” confirms the study’s lead author, Komal Bhattacharyya.
Redirect instead of renew
“You can tell that the network prefers to redirect flow through existing stronger links rather than re-forming weaker links,” Bhattacharyya concludes.
Among other things, the research results explain for the first time why the blood flow of affected people changes permanently after a stroke or after the appearance of a clot, even if the cause of the reduction in blood flow was eliminated.
Memory capacity of brainless networks
This type of memory capacity is already known from other networks. For example, a previous study by the team showed that the slime mold Physarum polycephalum uses its adaptive network to navigate its environment based on food stimuli.
The tube-like system, which the fungus uses to transport nutrients, is initially soft and then continues to grow. When the fungus encounters food, the tubes that carry the nutrients harden.
Like a highway, thick, hardened tubes can transport nutrients more efficiently, while soft tubes can change and degrade faster if they don’t encounter nutrients.
The findings of this earlier work solved a decades-old mystery of how non-brain mechanisms manage to respond to their environment. The network of tubes acts as a kind of memory for the fungus, remembering where nutrients are in the environment through changes in the transport system. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
Max Planck Society: How Blood Vessels Remember a Stroke (Published: 2022-07-15), ds.mpg.deKomal Bhattacharyya, David Zwicker, Karen Alim, et al. : Memory formation in adaptive networks; in: Physical Review Letter (2022), journals.aps.orgMax Planck Society: Remembering – without a brain (published: February 22, 2021), ds.mpg.de
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.