WASHINGTON, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Scientists at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia revealed one underlying mechanism of brain aging and age-related Alzheimer's.
A study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature reported that meningeal lymphatic vessels in the brain might play a key role in keeping a healthy fluid balance in brains, offering a new therapeutic target.
Researchers have found that these vessels drain fluid from the central nervous system into the cervical lymph nodes and the dysfunction of that drainage aggravates cognitive decline, causing Alzheimer's disease pathology.
"Our results showed that someday this method could be used as a potential treatment to help alleviate the effects not only of Alzheimer's, but also other age-related cognitive ailments," said Virginia Tech's Jennifer Munson, a study co-author.
When the researchers treated healthy aged mice with a molecule that increased meningeal lymphatic vessel size and fluid flow within those vessels, the mice showed improved performance on learning and memory tasks.
"As you age, the fluid movement in your brain slows, sometimes to a pace that's half of what it was when you were younger," said Munson.
"We discovered that the proteins responsible for Alzheimer's actually do get drained through these lymphatic vessels in the brain along with other cellular debris, so any decrease in flow is going to affect that protein build-up."
The researchers engineered a hydrogel that can swell those lymphatic vessels, and as a result, the bulk flow of fluid in the brain actually increased, rendering a positive effect on cognitive abilities.
They expected to use similar hydrogels in future studies as a noninvasive method to alter flow in the brain.