Age-related microvascular degeneration in the human cerebral periventricular white matter

Eszter Farkas, Rob A.I. de Vos, Gergely Donka, E. N. Jansen Steur, András Mihály, Paul G.M. Luiten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-157
Number of pages8
JournalActa neuropathologica
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2006


  • Aging
  • Basement membrane
  • Collagen fibrosis
  • Microvessels
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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