JUL 31, 2018 06:40 AM PDT

Draining the Brain Leads to Clues About Alzheimer's

Finding a way to reverse the aging process has been a goal for centuries. A "fountain of youth" seems to be the chupacabra of scientific research.

Nowhere is aging and the cognitive issues that can come with it a more critical point than the field of Alzheimer's research. Blood supply to the brain is crucial, but like the rest of the body, blood vessels age. Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine recently published a study on improving the lymphatic vessels that remove cellular waste from the brain and how this could rejuvenate aging vessels.

The study is a follow-up to groundbreaking research in 2015 in Jonathan Kipnis, and his team discovered that the brain does indeed have a lymphatic system. For hundreds of years, it was believed that there was no way to "drain the brain" of cellular waste products. Knowing the mechanism of how this works was a considerable advance in neuroscience, and the latest research only adds to that, since now there seems to be a way to reverse the damage to older lymphatic vessels and improve their performance.

Dr. Kipnis chairs UVA's Department of Neuroscience and directs its Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG.) He explained, "When you take naturally aging mice, and you make them learn and remember better, that is really exciting. If we can make old mice learn better, that tells me there is something that can be done. I'm actually very optimistic that one day we could live to a very, very, very old age and not develop Alzheimer's."

While Kipnis's earlier research demonstrated the existence of a cerebral lymphatic system, the recent study provided a detailed look at the mechanism of how it worked and demonstrated that the older vessels could be revamped to work better. The study used a mouse model since the brain, and lymphatic systems of mice are quite similar to humans. They developed a compound that allowed brain waste to flow out of the skull and into the lymph nodes in the body. The vessels dilated more and waste flowed smoothly out of the brain. Vessels that were once constricted and inefficient opened up significantly.

Looking at the buildup of tau protein plaques, the researchers noted that when the lymphatic vasculature was older and less efficient, the mice accumulated more of the beta-amyloid plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's. When they cleared them out, the older mice, which were showing signs of cognitive decline, improved their ability to learn. Kipnis took these results as a spark to look at how Alzheimer's develops in humans and could, one day, be reversed. He stated in a press release, "Here is the first time that we can actually enhance cognitive ability in an old mouse by targeting this lymphatic vasculature around the brain. By itself, it's super, super exciting, but then we said, ‘Wait a second, if that's the case, what's happening in Alzheimer's?'"

While there is much more research needed, the fact that a new target for Alzheimer's treatment is now better understood is a boost to pharmaceutical companies that are researching medications for dementia. Many companies are slowing down or stopping research entirely because it's prohibitively expensive and hasn't yielded good results. For more information on the new work and what the next steps are, check out the video below.

Sources: UVA Nature UPI

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 04, 2018
Drug Discovery
SEP 04, 2018
Dopamine Provided Targeted Therapy for Neuropsychiatric Disorders
According to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry, research scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons have brought ...
SEP 24, 2018
Videos
SEP 24, 2018
Restaurants use psychology to make you spend more money
Have you ever gone out to a restaurant and ended up ordering way more than you expected to, only to get the bill at the end of dinner and be totally blinds...
SEP 27, 2018
Neuroscience
SEP 27, 2018
A New Science Center For Brain Research
Neuroscientists all over the globe are actively looking for more effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease, but it hasn't been a very productive...
OCT 23, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 23, 2018
Does Marijuana Help or Hinder Stroke Recovery?
A recent study reported in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases has found that marijuana smokers have a higher rate of hospital adm...
NOV 06, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
NOV 06, 2018
The Role of Endocannabinoids in Orgasm
Now that I've got your attention, we can talk science now. Yes, there is actually relatively new study which measures levels of endocannabinoids in blo...
NOV 19, 2018
Neuroscience
NOV 19, 2018
Thalamus plays a role in cognitive flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is our brain's ability to shift from thinking about one thing to another. The higher your speed of moving gears, the greater your cognitive flexibility....
Loading Comments...