What is the Blood-Brain Barrier?

Mar 5th 2020

What is the Blood-Brain Barrier?

Article at a glance

  • Human brain cells are fragile, yet they play a crucial role in the body's function and wellbeing.
  • Maintenance of these cells is essential for life and cognitive function.
  • The blood-brain barrier regulates the brains microenvironment by controlling what molecules and nutrients can enter and which can't.
  • While there are some lifestyle factors that can disrupt the blood-brain barrier, there are also some that can preserve its integrity.

The brain is the hub of sensory and intellectual activity, and although it makes up a small percentage of the body, it plays a crucial role in the body's functions and overall wellbeing. The brain, like an exclusive club, has its own security network. It's the gatekeeper on what can enter and what can't. This security system, called the  blood-brain barrier (BBB), is a term used to describe a network of blood vessels and supporting neurons that surround the brain and central nervous system (CNS).

The blood vessels of the BBB are similar to other blood vessels in the body because they, too, are made of endothelial cells. However, unlike blood vessels found elsewhere, endothelial cells in the BBB are tightly wedged together, creating a nearly impermeable boundary between the brain and the bloodstream.

These tightly woven endothelial cells, along with the help of other brain protecting neurons, allows for tight control over the movement of ions, molecules, toxins, bacteria, and other harmful substances between the blood and the brain. Brain cells are very fragile, and the BBB's primary role is to regulate the brain's microenvironment for optimal neural function, as well as protect the CNS from toxins, pathogens, inflammation, injury, and disease by letting the good stuff in and keeping the bad stuff out.

Substances with high  lipid solubility, meaning that they can dissolve in lipids, fats, or oils, can diffuse into the brain with little effort. Medium-chain fatty acids, for example, can readily cross the BBB and be used as fuel for the brain. Other molecules that can easily pass the BBB include water and gases, such as oxygen.

Other  molecules that are larger or have low lipid solubility, like glucose, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, can be transported across the BBB with the help of transport proteins that escort specific molecules that the brain needs across the threshold.

The BBB can be  broken down by high blood pressure, exposure to radiation, infection, trauma, or inflammation. Once the BBB is damaged, it could lead to several neurodegenerative disorders

Along with controlling any lifestyle factors that can damage the BBB listed above, there are also natural neuroprotective molecules that act by preserving the BBB integrity. These include DHAcurcumin, and resveratrol, leading to improved neuroprotection. The design of the human body goes to great lengths to protect the brain, and it's up to us and our choices to keep those systems working optimally. The BBB is in many ways the fortress that we need to support life and optimal cognitive function.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, policy or position of Trident Brands Incorporated or affiliated entities. It is important to understand that while a dietary supplement may have been shown through clinical study to be beneficial for certain health conditions, they are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or alleviate the effects of any disease. Please also note that Bryce Wylde has a pre-existing financial relationship with Trident Brands as Chief Innovation Officer.

Most importantly, the content herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioner with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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