Special delivery: The importance of healthy blood flow

11 October 2013

Blood is one of the primary delivery systems of our bodies.

It delivers oxygen and energy to our cells, and then takes away carbon dioxide as well as other by-products (think of a fleet of UPS trucks busy delivering and picking up orders all over a big city).

Blood vessels on the other hand, are the road network allowing for effective transportation of that delivery system. Without suitable blood flow and healthy, clear blood vessels, effective delivery of fuels that cells need, and removal of damaging waste, does not occur.

Dysfunctional blood flow is like having too few or too many UPS trucks on the road – either insufficient to transport what is required or congesting the roads. To conceptualize dysfunctional blood vessels within the same framework, consider heavy construction and blocked roads causing delays, detours, and interruptions.

Dysfunctional blood flow delivery in the brain is directly related to stroke and has recently been considered a major factor in cognitive function and several other disorders. Individuals with spinal cord injury are at a very high risk of stroke and often suffer from cognitive dysfunction.    

One of my key areas of clinical research is examining and evaluating the role dysfunctional brain blood flow plays in the risk of stroke, and the development of cognitive dysfunction in this population. This is an ongoing and comprehensive process involving a great deal of investment from scientists, clinicians, patients, and committed funding partners like the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. Together, we are taking steps toward identifying the role blood flow plays in the development of these life-threatening conditions, so that we may identify targets for therapy in the future and help improve quality and quantity of life.

Over the coming months, I will outline more specifically the research we have completed, as well as ongoing and upcoming investigations.

Dr. Aaron Phillips is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia. He researches brain blood flow regulation and the clinical outcomes of dysfunction at the Centre for Heart, Lung, and Vascular Health, as well as the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries.