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URMC / Research / Research@URMC / June 2013 / Revving up Brain’s ‘Garbage Truck’ to Treat Neurological Disorders

Revving up Brain’s ‘Garbage Truck’ to Treat Neurological Disorders

brain vascularThe newly discovered method by which the brain removes waste is causing scientists to contemplate new ways to treat “dirty brain” disease like Alzheimer’s. 

An extensive and heretofore unknown plumbing system extends throughout the brain and uses cerebral spinal fluid to flush waste from the brain’s tissues.  This system – dubbed the glymphatic system – was first described by researchers in URMC’s Center for Translational Neuromedicine last August. 

The reason why it had eluded scientists for so long is because the system must be observed intact within the living brain.  Because the system depends upon pressure to move fluid through the brain, once the brain is cracked open the system ceases to function.   Two-photon microscopy – which enabled scientists to view the system in real time in the brains of mice – was the key its discovery.

In a perspective piece out today in the journal Science, URMC scientist Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc. explains that the discovery of the glymphatic system is important because “essentially all neurodegenerative diseases are associated with the accumulation of cellular waste products.”

Nedergaard and her colleagues believe that the system could be manipulated to increase its efficiency leading to potential new treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s which are characterized by the build-up of the protein beta amyloid in the brain.

Read more about the glymphatic system and its therapeutic potential here.

glymphatic system

Mark Michaud | 6/27/2013

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