JUL 31, 2018 6:40 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
NOV 08, 2020
Neuroscience
Psychedelic DMT Improves Memory by Neurogenesis
NOV 08, 2020
Psychedelic DMT Improves Memory by Neurogenesis
Researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain have found that dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the psychoactiv ...
DEC 28, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Does Cannabis Affect Stress in Men and Women Differently?
DEC 28, 2020
Does Cannabis Affect Stress in Men and Women Differently?
Researchers from Washington State University have found that cannabis may blunt the stress response differently in males ...
DEC 28, 2020
Neuroscience
Prenatal Metal Exposure Has Long Term Health Consequences
DEC 28, 2020
Prenatal Metal Exposure Has Long Term Health Consequences
Researchers from Rutgers University have found that prenatal exposure to metals, including lead, arsenic, cobalt, and ni ...
JAN 03, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
How Psychedelic Salvinorin A Works in the Brain
JAN 03, 2021
How Psychedelic Salvinorin A Works in the Brain
Despite increasing interest in hallucinogens, the effects of Salvinorin A, a drug used in Native Mexican rituals, have r ...
FEB 24, 2021
Neuroscience
Vocal Markers for Trust and Reliability are Easily Manipulated
FEB 24, 2021
Vocal Markers for Trust and Reliability are Easily Manipulated
Why is it that some voices instinctively sound more reliable than others? Researchers have found that we identify specif ...
FEB 24, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Novel Neurofeedback Technique Improves Symptoms of Depression and Psychosis
FEB 24, 2021
Novel Neurofeedback Technique Improves Symptoms of Depression and Psychosis
Researchers from the University of Rochester have found that real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) neur ...
Loading Comments...