Glioblastoma is an aggressive, devastating type of brain tumor that spreads rapidly. According to a mice study published in Nature Communications, researchers found that during the early stages of glioblastoma progression that glioblastoma cells took over cerebral blood vessels, which damaged the blood-brain barrier (BBB).
The BBB protects the brain from harmful materials threatening to leak inside of it, and the BBB also regulates the transportation of important molecules between the blood and the brain. Parts of the BBB are tight junctions that make seals between blood vessels’ endothelial cells. A specialized brain cell, known as an astrocyte, has extensive projections called endfeet and covers blood vessels. The endfeet regulate the brain’s blood flow by releasing chemicals that make blood vessels contract or expand.
Harald Sontheimer, PhD, and his colleagues studied glioblastoma cells, astrocytes, and cerebral blood vessels and how they interact with each other. The researchers found that a majority of the glioblastoma cells outside of the tumor resided between the endfeet and the blood vessel’s outer surface. The glioblastoma cells migrated along blood vessels, took the blood’s nutrients, and hijacked the astrocytes’ control over blood flow, which caused the BBB’s breakdown.
These findings could lead to new treatments using anti-invasive agents for glioblastoma.
Invading glioblastoma cells may damage the brain’s protective barrier, a study in mice indicates. This finding could lead to novel methods for bringing about the death of the tumor, as therapies may be able to reach these deadly cells at an earlier time point than was previously thought possible.