In today’s times, scientists are constantly doing extensive research to find ways to treat some of the world’s most infamous diseases. More and more discoveries are being made these days. And late last year a discovery was made that may hold the key to finding the cure for Alzheimer’s.
Meghan Mott says that in the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York, a research team was going through an investigation into how the brain gets rid of waste (http://nih.gov). Up until now it was understood that cerebrospinal fluid cleanses the brain tissue. But scientists were baffled as to how this process works. Up until now scientists believed that waste in the brain was transferred out via the long process of diffusion.
A previously undiscovered cleaning system
But this research team discovered that cerebrospinal fluid travels through the brain in an entirely different manner. Up until now scientists could only observe the brain tissue of animals that were already dead. But while conducting the research, this team used a process called 2-photon laser scanning microscopy to observe the cerebrospinal fluid in the brains of mice. This is a new method and it allowed the scientists to observe the brains of living mice. They injected tracers into the brain in the region where cerebrospinal fluid exists. They found that the tracers moved at a quicker rate than expected through channels surrounding the blood vessels. These channels are cells which surround the blood vessels and they are known as astrocytes.
Astrocytes are types of cells known as glial cells – which are types of cells that support neurons. By way of small appendages they can latch onto the blood vessels like an extra layer. And it is through this layer that the cerebrospinal fluid travels. It meant that scientists now know that the brain gets rid of waste in a similar manner to the lymphatic system in our bodies which exists to dispose of dead blood cells. They called this newly discovered system the ‘glymphatic system’ because it is a similar system to the lymphatic system and it is managed by these glial cells.
Scientists discussed the idea that problems in the glymphatic system may lead to an accumulation of waste in the brain. In the case of Alzheimer’s there is a buildup of a protein known as amyloid beta which builds up in the brain and harms the cells. The research team then conducted an experiment where they injected amyloid beta into the brains of healthy mice and the brains of mice whose glymphatic system’s had been genetically disabled. They found that with the healthy mice the protein was removed quickly from the system but in the case of the other group of mice the protein was removed at a much slower rate.
A possible cure for Alzheimer’s?
The research team then speculated that increasing activity in the glymphatic system might prevent a buildup and also possibly lead to the removal of the amyloid beta accumulation. They hope that the discovery of this cleaning system will help medicine find ways to treat brain injuries and treat neurological diseases.
This has proven to be highly significant discovery and could mean the beginning of the end of the incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s
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