Background: Every year, strokes take millions of lives and leave millions of individuals
living with permanent disabilities. Recently more researchers embrace the concept of the
neurovascular unit (NVU), which encompasses neurons, endothelial cells (ECs), pericytes,
astrocyte, microglia, and the extracellular matrix. It has been well-documented that NVU emerged
as a new paradigm for the exploration of mechanisms and therapies in ischemic stroke. To better
understand the complex NVU and broaden therapeutic targets, we must probe the roles of multiple
cell types in ischemic stroke. The aims of this paper are to introduce the biological characteristics of
brain pericytes and the available evidence on the diverse functions and mechanisms involving the
pericytes in the context of ischemic stroke.
Methods: Research and online content related to the biological characteristics and
pathophysiological roles of pericytes is review. The new research direction on the Pericytes in
ischemic stroke, and the potential therapeutic targets are provided.
Results: During the different stages of ischemic stroke, pericytes play different roles: 1) On the
hyperacute phase of stroke, pericytes constriction and death may be a cause of the no-reflow
phenomenon in brain capillaries; 2) During the acute phase, pericytes detach from microvessels and
participate in inflammatory-immunological response, resulting in the BBB damage and brain edema.
Pericytes also provide benefit for neuroprotection by protecting endothelium, stabilizing BBB and
releasing neurotrophins; 3) Similarly, during the later recovery phase of stroke, pericytes also
contribute to angiogenesis, neurogenesis, and thereby promote neurological recovery.
Conclusion: This emphasis on the NVU concept has shifted the focus of ischemic stroke research
from neuro-centric views to the complex interactions within NVU. With this new perspective,
pericytes that are centrally positioned in the NVU have been widely studied in ischemic stroke.
More work is needed to elucidate the beneficial and detrimental roles of brain pericytes in ischemic
stroke that may serve as a basis for potential therapeutic targets.