06/28/2013

Brain's "garbage truck" may be key to treating Alzheimer's

NEWS

Scientists have a discovered a new system in which our brain removes waste, and that could shed light on neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, according to an article published in the journal Science. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center believe that when the brain does not flush out waste properly, it may actually lead to these disorders, since nearly all neurodegenerative diseases are associated with cellular waste. Scientists hope that understanding and then modulating this brain process could lead to new ways to treat these diseases.

Over the years, scientists have learned more about the brain's process of waste removal, but until now certain things haven't been clear. The system, which is called the glymphatic system, cannot be detected in samples of brain tissue. Instead, scientists used new imaging technology to peer deep within the living brains of mice, which are very similar to human brains. The glymphatic system runs parallel to pathways that bring blood into the brain, but it carries cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) instead. Researchers say it appears to be a pipe within a pipe, with one pipe carrying CSF and the other carrying blood. The CSF is flushed through the brain at a high speed, which sweeps excess proteins and waste out of the brain and down the spine, where it is transferred to the lymphatic system and broken down in the liver.

Scientists believe that being able to flush out beta amyloid proteins in the brain, which are a hallmark sign of Alzheimer's disease, could lead to new treatments.

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