Transport Phenomena in the Nervous System

Part of the series Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology pp 55-75

The Transport of Metabolizable Substances into the Living Brain

  • O. E. PrattAffiliated withDepartment of Neuropathology, Institute of Psychiatry

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Much knowledge about the many enzymic processes by which the cerebral cells can change one substance into another has been derived from in vitro work. However, such in vitro experiments do not tell us the quantities of the various nutrient substances that the living brain needs to obtain from the blood in order to function normally. Nor do they tell us about the direction in which the various metabolic pathways act in life. In order to discover the needs of the cerebral tissues for metabolizable substances the quantities that enter and leave the brain during life must be studied. Over the last decade advances in technique in the in vivo field have enabled the study of various aspects of cerebral metabolism to be carried out with greater accuracy than has been possible in the past. For example, advances have been made in the following fields: the rates at which substances enter the brain; the factors which interfere with the entry of these substances; the conditions under which supply becomes inadequate to meet fully the metabolic needs of the brain and how far the brain, when deprived of normal substrate, can make good the deficiency by metabolizing an alternative substance. From these advances a common pattern emerges — that transport processes are of great importance in controlling the levels of metabolites in the brain.43