Clinical studies have identified white matter (WM) lesions as hyperintensive regions in the MRI images of elderly patients. Since a cerebrovascular origin was attributed to such lesions, the present analysis set out to define the microvascular histopathologic changes in the periventricular WM in the aged. Post-mortem samples of the frontal, parietal, and occipital periventricular WM of 40-90-year-old subjects were prepared for quantitative light and electron microscopy. Light microscopic examination revealed microvascular fibrohyalinosis as the most common type of microvascular damage in the elderly. Ultrastructural analysis identified the microvascular thickening as collagen deposits affecting the basement membrane. The vascular density did not correlate with the age. The basement membrane pathology significantly increased, while the number of intact microvessels gradually decreased, with advancing age in the frontal and occipital WM. Finally, peripheral atherosclerosis coincided with massive microvascular fibrosis, particularly in the frontal WM. Our results demonstrate an age-related microvascular degeneration in the periventricular WM, which may contribute to the development of WM lesions by hindering a sufficient supply of nutrients to the affected WM sites. Furthermore, the data accord with previous observations identifying the frontal lobe as the site at which WM vulnerability is most pronounced. Finally, atherosclerosis in large, peripheral vessels is considered to be a predictive marker of microvascular pathology in the WM.
- Basement membrane
- Collagen fibrosis
- White matter
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Clinical Neurology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience