Assessment and Imaging of the Cerebrovascular Glycocalyx

Roel Hubert Louis Haeren*, Steffi Elisabeth Maria van de Ven, Marcus Anna Maria Jacobus van Zandvoort, Hans Vink, Jacobus Johannes van Overbeeke, Govert Hoogland, Kim Rijkers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The glycocalyx is a gel-like layer lining the luminal surface of the endothelium. The glycocalyx exerts an important barrier role because it prevents exposure of plasma components to the endothelial surface. Disruption of the glycocalyx by local inflammation or ischemia results in decreased glycocalyx thickness which is associated with a number of vascular diseases. The cerebrovascular glycocalyx has sparsely been studied, but is of great interest because of its potential role in cerebrovascular disease. In this review, we describe all existing techniques to visualize the glycocalyx and designate techniques that may be suitable for studying the cerebrovascular glycocalyx. A total of seven imaging techniques are discussed thoroughly, including transmission electron microscopy, intravital microscopy, micro-particle image velocimetry, confocal laser scanning microscopy, two-photon laser scanning microscopy, orthogonal polarization spectral imaging and sidestream dark field/oblique imaging. Measurement of serum concentrations of glycocalyx-specific constituents is another method for glycocalyx analysis. Also, we have reviewed the methods of glycocalyx analysis by using these imaging techniques. So far, the cerebrovascular glycocalyx has only been studied in vitro. However, other cerebral microcirculatory properties have been studied in vivo. This suggests that the cerebrovascular glycocalyx can be studied in vivo by using some of the described techniques, when specific software is subjoined to the analysis. In conclusion, we have summarized techniques available for glycocalyx assessment, and explained the significance and technical possibilities regarding cerebrovascular glycocalyx visualization. Cerebrovascular glycocalyx assessment would add valuable information to our understanding of the pathophysiology of cerebrovascular disease. Moreover, as a part of the blood-brain barrier, more knowledge on the cerebrovascular glycocalyx may lead to better understanding of neurodegenerative conditions that are caused by a compromised blood-brain barrier including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-260
JournalCurrent Neurovascular Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Glycocalyx
  • microscopy
  • review
  • technique
  • cerebral
  • blood-brain barrier


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