Arteriolosclerosis that affects multiple brain regions is linked to hippocampal sclerosis of ageing
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Hippocampal sclerosis of ageing is a prevalent brain disease that afflicts older persons and has been linked with cerebrovascular pathology. Arteriolosclerosis is a subtype of cerebrovascular pathology characterized by concentrically thickened arterioles. Here we report data from multiple large autopsy series (University of Kentucky Alzheimer's Disease Centre, Nun Study, and National Alzheimer's Coordinating Centre) showing a specific association between hippocampal sclerosis of ageing pathology and arteriolosclerosis. The present analyses incorporate 226 cases of autopsy-proven hippocampal sclerosis of ageing and 1792 controls. Case-control comparisons were performed including digital pathological assessments for detailed analyses of blood vessel morphology. We found no evidence of associations between hippocampal sclerosis of ageing pathology and lacunar infarcts, large infarcts, Circle of Willis atherosclerosis, or cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Individuals with hippocampal sclerosis of ageing pathology did not show increased rates of clinically documented hypertension, diabetes, or other cardiac risk factors. The correlation between arteriolosclerosis and hippocampal sclerosis of ageing pathology was strong in multiple brain regions outside of the hippocampus. For example, the presence of arteriolosclerosis in the frontal cortex (Brodmann area 9) was strongly associated with hippocampal sclerosis of ageing pathology (P < 0.001). This enables informative evaluation of anatomical regions outside of the hippocampus. To assess the morphology of brain microvasculature far more rigorously than what is possible using semi-quantitative pathological scoring, we applied digital pathological (Aperio ScanScope) methods on a subsample of frontal cortex sections from hippocampal sclerosis of ageing (n = 15) and control (n = 42) cases. Following technical studies to optimize immunostaining methods for small blood vessel visualization, our analyses focused on sections immunostained for smooth muscle actin (a marker of arterioles) and CD34 (an endothelial marker), with separate analyses on grey and white matter. A total of 43 834 smooth muscle actin-positive vascular profiles and 603 798 CD34-positive vascular profiles were evaluated. In frontal cortex of cases with hippocampal sclerosis of ageing, smooth muscle actin-immunoreactive arterioles had thicker walls (P < 0.05), larger perimeters (P < 0.03), and larger vessel areas (P < 0.03) than controls. Unlike the arterioles, CD34-immunoreactive capillaries had dimensions that were unchanged in cases with hippocampal sclerosis of ageing versus controls. Arteriolosclerosis appears specific to hippocampal sclerosis of ageing brains, because brains with Alzheimer's disease pathology did not show the same morphological alterations. We conclude that there may be a pathogenetic change in aged human brain arterioles that impacts multiple brain areas and contributes to hippocampal sclerosis of ageing.