Study Confirms Central Role of Brain’s Support Cells in Huntington’s, Points to New Therapies
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Brains of mice with human glial cells containing Huntington's disease mutation (top image) show significantly less myelin (red) than controls (bottom image).
New research gives scientists a clearer picture of what is happening in the brains of people with Huntington’s disease and lays out a potential path for treatment. The study, which appears today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, shows that support cells in the brain are key contributors to the disease.
“Huntington’s is a complex disease that is characterized by the loss of multiple cell populations in the brain,” said neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., the lead author of the study and the co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). “These new findings help pinpoint how the genetic flaw in Huntington’s gives rise to glial cell dysfunction, which impairs the development and role of these cells, and ultimately the survival of neurons. While it has long been known that neuronal loss is responsible for the progressive behavioral, cognitive, and motor deterioration of the disease, these findings suggest that it’s glial dysfunction which is actually driving much of this process.”
Huntington’s is a hereditary and fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of medium spiny neurons, a nerve cell in the brain that plays a critical role in motor control. As the disease progresses over time and more of these cells die, the result is involuntary movements, problems with coordination, and cognitive decline, depression, and often psychosis. There is currently no way to slow or modify the progression of this disease.Read More: Study Confirms Central Role of Brain’s Support Cells in Huntington’s, Points to New Therapies
Maiken Nedergaard Recognized for Groundbreaking Research on Glymphatic System
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., has been awarded the with the 2018 Eric K. Fernstrom Foundation Grand Nordic Prize for her work that led to the discovery of the brain’s unique waste removal system and its role in a number of neurological disorders. Nedergaard maintains labs at the Medical Center and the University of Copenhagen.
In 2012, Nedergaard’s lab was the first to reveal the brain’s unique process of removing waste, dubbed the glymphatic system, which consists of a plumbing system that piggybacks on the brain’s blood vessels and pumps cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) through the brain’s tissue, flushing away waste.
Nedergaard’s lab has since gone on to show that the glymphatic system works primarily while we sleep, could be a key player in diseases like Alzheimer’s, is disrupted after traumatic brain injury, may be enhanced by moderate alcohol consumption, and could be harnessed as a new way to deliver drugs to the brain.
The Eric K. Fernstrom Foundation annually awards the Grand Nordic Prize to a medical research from one of the Nordic Countries. The award was announced during a ceremony on November 7 at Lund University in Sweden.Read More: Maiken Nedergaard Recognized for Groundbreaking Research on Glymphatic System
Study Points to New Method to Deliver Drugs to the Brain
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have discovered a potentially new approach to deliver therapeutics more effectively to the brain. The research could have implications for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and brain cancer.
“Improving the delivery of drugs to the central nervous system is a considerable clinical challenge,” said Maiken Nedergaard M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the article which appears today in the journal JCI Insight. “The findings of this study demonstrate that the brain’s waste removal system could be harnessed to transport drugs quickly and efficiently into the brain.”
Many promising therapies for diseases of the central nervous system have failed in clinical trials because of the difficulty in getting enough of the drugs into the brain to be effective. This is because the brain maintains its own closed environment that is protected by a complex system of molecular gateways – called the blood-brain barrier – that tightly control what can enter and exit the brain.Read More: Study Points to New Method to Deliver Drugs to the Brain
While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
A study by Maiken Nedergaard, a professor of neurosurgery, suggests that while we’re awake, our neurons are packed tightly together, but when we’re asleep, some brain cells deflate by 60 percent, widening the spaces between them. These intercellular spaces are dumping grounds for the cells’ metabolic waste—notably a substance called beta-amyloid, which disrupts communication between neurons and is closely linked to Alzheimer’s.Read More: While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey
Raise a Glass to Your Health
Monday, May 21, 2018
Continue to raise that glass (in moderation, of course) if you want to maximize the health benefits of wine. Recent studies claim a variety of benefits can be linked to low or moderate alcohol consumption, approximately two drinks or less per day. Here are the top five takeaways.
Low levels of alcohol can decrease inflammation and help the brain clear away toxins
Published in the February 2018 issue of the journal Scientific Reports, a study conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center demonstrated that mice exposed to low levels of alcohol showed less inflammation in the brain and a more efficient glymphatic system, which serves as the brain’s waste clearance system. The research may be promising for scientists that study age-related ailments like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“Consumption of alcohol has a ‘J’ shape curve on health,” says Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the study. “Small consumption is beneficial when looking at large populations, whereas high is not.”Read More: Raise a Glass to Your Health
Brain Science Suggests This Is the Best Position to Sleep In
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Sleep is critical for rest and rejuvenation. A human being will actually die of sleep deprivation before starvation--it takes about two weeks to starve, but only 10 days to die if you go without sleep.
The CDC has also classified insufficient sleep as a public health concern. Those who don't get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases that include hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer.
It's thus vital to get enough shuteye, but it turns out your sleep position also has a significant impact on the quality of rest you get.
In addition to regulating one's appetite, mood, and libido, neuroscientists assert that sleep reenergizes the body's cells, aids in memory and new learning, and clears waste from the brain.
That last one is particularly important. Similar to biological functions in which your body clears waste, your brain needs to get rid of unwanted material. The more clearly it functions, the more clearly you do.
Now, a neuroscience study suggests that of all sleep positions, one is most helpful when it comes to efficiently cleaning out waste from the brain: sleeping on your side.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, used dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to image the brain's "glymphatic pathway." This is the system by which cerebrospinal fluid filters through the brain and swaps with interstitial fluid (the fluid around all other cells in the body).
The exchange of the two fluids is what allows the brain to eliminate accumulated waste products, such as amyloid beta and tau proteins. What are such waste chemicals associated with? Among other conditions, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
"It is interesting that the lateral [side] sleep position is already the most popular in humans and most animals--even in the wild," said University of Rochester's Maiken Nedergaard. "It appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that build up while we are awake."Read More: Brain Science Suggests This Is the Best Position to Sleep In
Drinking Alcohol Tied To Long Life In New Study
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Drinking could help you live longer—that's the good news for happy-hour enthusiasts from a study presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. According to the study, people who live to 90 or older often drink moderately.
Neurologist Claudia Kawas and her team at the University of California, Irvine, have been studying the habits of people who live until their 90s since 2003. There’s a paltry amount of research on the oldest-old group, defined as 85 and older by the Social Security Administration, and Kawas wanted to delve into the lifestyle habits of those who live past 90. She began asking about dietary habits, medical history and daily activities via survey, wondering if such data could help identify trends among these who lived longest. Ultimately she gathered information on the habits of 1,700 people between the ages of 90-99.
In general, research on alcohol has shown mixed results. A recent study published in Scientific Reports showed that drinking might help clear toxins from the brain. The study was conducted on mice, who were given the human equivalent of two and a half alcoholic beverages.
Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester Medical Center told Newsweek at the time that alcohol did have real health benefits. “Except for a few types of cancer, including unfortunately breast cancer, alcohol is good for almost everything,” Nedergaard said.Read More: Drinking Alcohol Tied To Long Life In New Study
In Wine, There’s Health: Low Levels of Alcohol Good for the Brain
Friday, February 2, 2018
By Mark Michaud
While a couple of glasses of wine can help clear the mind after a busy day, new research shows that it may actually help clean the mind as well. The new study, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that low levels of alcohol consumption tamp down inflammation and helps the brain clear away toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “However, in this study we have shown for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health, namely it improves the brain’s ability to remove waste.”
The finding adds to a growing body of research that point to the health benefits of low doses of alcohol. While excessive consumption of alcohol is a well-documented health hazard, many studies have linked lower levels of drinking with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as a number of cancers.Read More: In Wine, There’s Health: Low Levels of Alcohol Good for the Brain