Pharmacology of the Blood-Brain Barrier

  • Joseph D. Fenstermacher


All so-called permeability studies of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) actually measure one of several transfer constants (e.g., the extraction fraction) and not a true permeability coefficient. The permeability coefficient or, more simply, the permeability is classically defined as the flux (i.e., the rate of unidirectional solute flow) per unit membrane area divided by the driving forces for the flux, which are the concentration, pressure, and electrical gradients, in most cases. Experimental measurements of permeability involve an assessment of the flux across the membrane of predetermined surface area that separates two solutions of nearly identical composition. For the BBB, which is generally believed to be formed by the capillary endothelium, the classic definition of the permeability coefficient should be retained because it can be used to understand BBB function more clearly. By contrast, the standard methods of measuring the permeability coefficient cannot be employed for the cerebral capillaries, since neither the capillary surface area nor the composition of the blood within the capillaries and the interstitial fluid surrounding them can be tightly controlled or precisely known.


Permeability Coefficient Cereb Blood Flow Transfer Constant Correlation Line Circumventricular Organ 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph D. Fenstermacher
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Neurological Surgery, and Physiology and BiophysicsState University of New YorkStony BrookUSA

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