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Network of blood vessels overlooked for centuries
The organs of the human body are largely known - one would think. However, a German research team recently discovered a previously unknown system of fine blood vessels within our bones that connects the bone marrow to the periosteum.
Researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE), the University Hospital Essen and research institutions in Erlangen, Jena, Berlin, Dresden and Bern discovered in a joint research project led by Professor Dr. Matthias Gunzer and Dr. Anja Hasenberg a previously unknown blood vessel system in our bones. The research results were recently published in the renowned journal "Nature Metabolism".
Long inconsistency cleared up
"Every organ needs a closed blood circulation," reports Dr. Anika Grüneboom from the University Hospital Erlangen. While fresh blood flows into the organ through arteries, the used blood is transported out through the veins. How this works with the very hard bones was previously largely unknown. This mystery has now been solved by the research team. The inside of the bone, in which the bone marrow is located, as well as the bone skin is criss-crossed with a dense network of blood-promoting vessels.
Most of the blood flows through the bones!
The research group discovered thousands of previously undocumented blood vessels in mouse bones. According to the study, this system runs through the entire skeleton. The researchers gave the system the name "transcortical vessels". The fascinating thing about the discovery is that, according to the study, this unknown system is said to produce more blood than the known arterial and venous blood vessels.
Previous assumptions incorrect
"The previous concepts described only a few arterial inflows and two venous outflows in bones," explains Professor Gunzer in a press release on the study results. This in no way reflects the natural situation. It is astonishing how new anatomical structures of such dimensions can be found in the 21st century that so far have not appeared in any textbook, the professor said.
The latest technology led to the discovery
This discovery was only made possible by using the latest technology, such as so-called light sheet microscopy and ultra-high-resolution 7 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging. “We used many of them for the first time to study blood flow in bones,” Gunzer emphasizes. In further studies, the team showed that these transcortical vessels also occur in human bones. For the investigation, study leader Gunzer even placed himself among the 7 Tesla magnetic resonance tomographs.
What does this new discovery mean for medicine?
The role of transcortical vessels in normal bone physiology must now be examined in further studies. The researchers assume that this discovery will also lead to new knowledge and treatments for certain bone diseases such as osteoporosis or bone cancer. (vb)