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Mouse Study: Deep Sleep Helps the Brain Wash Away Toxic Proteins

Friday, March 1, 2019

Deep sleep allows the brain to wash away waste and toxic proteins more efficiently, according to a new mouse study published in the journal Science Advances. The new findings shed light on previous evidence linking Alzheimer’s disease with aging and sleep deprivation.

“Sleep is critical to the function of the brain’s waste removal system and this study shows that the deeper the sleep, the better,” said Maiken Nedergaard, MD, DMSc, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study.

“These findings also add to the increasingly clear evidence that quality of sleep or sleep deprivation can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

The study suggests that the slow and steady brain and cardiopulmonary activity linked to deep non-REM sleep are optimal for the function of the glymphatic system, the brain’s waste removal system. The findings may also explain why some forms of anesthesia can result in cognitive dysfunction in older adults.

Read More: Mouse Study: Deep Sleep Helps the Brain Wash Away Toxic Proteins

Not All Sleep is Equal When It Comes to Cleaning the Brain

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

New research shows how the depth of sleep can impact our brain’s ability to efficiently wash away waste and toxic proteins.  Because sleep often becomes increasingly lighter and more disrupted as we become older, the study reinforces and potentially explains the links between aging, sleep deprivation, and heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sleep is critical to the function of the brain’s waste removal system and this study shows that the deeper the sleep the better,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicineat the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “These findings also add to the increasingly clear evidence that quality of sleep or sleep deprivation can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

The study, which appears in the journal Science Advances, indicates that the slow and steady brain and cardiopulmonary activity associated with deep non-REM sleep are optimal for the function of the glymphatic system, the brain’s unique process of removing waste. The findings may also explain why some forms of anesthesia can lead to cognitive impairment in older adults. 

Read More: Not All Sleep is Equal When It Comes to Cleaning the Brain

Study suggests how high blood pressure might contribute to Alzheimer’s

Monday, January 28, 2019

The brain’s system for removing waste is driven primarily by the pulsations of adjoining arteries, University of Rochester neuroscientists and mechanical engineers report in a new study. They also show that changes in the pulsations caused by high blood pressure slow the removal of waste, reducing its efficiency.

This might explain the association between high blood pressure and Alzheimer’ disease, the researchers say. Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia among older adults, is characterized by abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers in the brain.

The study, reported in Nature Communications, builds upon groundbreaking discoveries about the brain’s waste removal system by Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the University’s Center for Translational Neuromedicine. Nedergaard and her colleagues were the first to describe how cerebrospinal fluid is pumped into brain tissue and flushes away waste. Subsequent research by her team has shown that this glymphatic waste removal system is more active while we sleep and can be damaged by stroke and trauma.

This latest research shows “in much greater depth and much greater precision than before” how the glymphatic system functions in the perivascular spaces that surround arteries in the outer brain membrane, says Douglas Kelley, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and an expert in fluid dynamics. His lab is collaborating with Nedergaard’s team as part of a $3.2 million National Institute on Aging grant.

For this study, Humberto Mestre, a PhD student in Nedergaard’s lab, injected minute particles in the cerebrospinal fluid of mice, and then used two-photon microscopy to create videos showing the particles as they moved through the perivascular spaces.

Read More: Study suggests how high blood pressure might contribute to Alzheimer’s

How to Get Enough Sleep in 2019

Friday, January 18, 2019

What really happens when you sleep? You may be taking a break from consciousness when you snooze, but not all of your neurons are resting, Veasey says. While you rest, your brain solidifies the synapses involved in the important memories you want to keep (like the name of your new dentist) while pruning the synapses involved in less important memories (such as where you put your keys two nights ago).

Sleep also gives your brain a chance to clear out debris that accumulated during the day. In 2014, a team of scientists led by Maiken Nedergaard at the University of Rochester Medical Center published research suggesting that the brain rids itself of metabolic waste through a kind of plumbing system that works mainly while we sleep. Just as the lymphatic system clears unwanted waste from the rest of the body, what’s called the glymphatic system eliminates debris and toxins from the brain and the central nervous system. Skimp on sleep, and this janitorial service can’t keep up, so the rubbish starts to accumulate in your noggin.

Read More: How to Get Enough Sleep in 2019

Study Confirms Central Role of Brain’s Support Cells in Huntington’s, Points to New Therapies

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Study Confirms Central Role of Brain’s Support Cells in Huntington’s, Points to New TherapiesBrains 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