The ultrastructure of spinal cord perivascular spaces: Implications for the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid

Magdalena A. Lam*, Sarah J. Hemley, Elmira Najafi, Nicole G.F. Vella, Lynne E. Bilston, Marcus A. Stoodley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)


Perivascular spaces play a pivotal role in the exchange between cerebrospinal and interstitial fluids, and in the clearance of waste in the CNS, yet their precise anatomical components are not well described. The aim of this study was to characterise the ultrastructure of perivascular spaces and their role in the transport of fluid, in the spinal cord of healthy rats, using transmission electron microscopy. The distribution of cerebrospinal fluid tracers injected into the subarachnoid space was studied using light, confocal and electron microscopy. Perivascular spaces were found around arterioles and venules, but not capillaries, throughout the spinal cord white and grey matter. They contained fibroblasts and collagen fibres, and were continuous with the extracellular spaces of the surrounding tissue. At 5 min post injection, tracers were seen in the subarachnoid space, the peripheral white matter, the perivascular spaces, basement membranes, extracellular spaces of the surrounding tissue, and surprisingly, in the lumen of blood vessels, suggesting trans-vascular clearance. These findings point out an unrecognised outflow pathway for CNS fluids, with potential implications for volume regulation in health and disease states, but also clinically for the detection of CNS-derived biomarkers in plasma, the immune response and drug pharmacokinetics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12924
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


Dive into the research topics of 'The ultrastructure of spinal cord perivascular spaces: Implications for the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this