Cerebral microvascular alterations in aging, leukoaraiosis, and Alzheimer's disease

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1997 Sep 26;826:103-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1997.tb48464.x.


We have been using alkaline phosphatase (AP) histochemical staining, formerly a research tool for the study of cerebral cortical vascular morphology, to examine pathological changes in the cortex and deep cerebral structures. Deep structures stain similarly to the cortex. The AP stain is found in the afferent vessels (small arteries, arterioles, and capillaries), but not in venules and veins. The stain is also present in leaky vessels, such as those in the area postrema. The vascular supply to the cerebrum is not homogeneous. Supply to the deep white matter, for instance, derives from the leptomeningeal border zone, and then medullary arterioles must wind their way for up to 4 cm before arriving at their ultimate destination. Adding to the difficulties, tortuosities develop in some of these vessels with aging. According to some calculations, hypertensive levels of blood pressure would be required to maintain irrigation through some of these vessels. We have identified a venous alteration that attends aging: periventricular venous collagenosis (PVC) is a previously unrecognized, noninflammatory, mural disease of the periventricular veins. In severe cases, examples can be found of veins that are completely occluded by this process. PVC is found in 65% of subjects over 60 years old, and it strongly correlates with leukoaraiosis. In addition to previously mentioned aging-related changes, we have found extreme tortuosity, multiplications, and aneurysms of the smallest arterioles and lumpy-bumpy capillaries in the deep structures of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Microcirculation
  • Middle Aged