The brain is a complex and vital organ that requires constant maintenance and clearance of metabolic wastes. Throughout the rest of the body, a network of vessels called the lymphatic system is responsible for draining excess fluids as well as transporting immune cells. However, the brain lacks a conventional lymphatic system, so how does it keep itself clean and healthy?
The answer may lie in a recently discovered system called the glymphatic system. This system is a space surrounding certain blood vessels that allows cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to enter and exit the brain. This allows both the delivery of nutrients to the brain cells and the removal of waste products such as amyloid-beta and tau proteins, which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
A recent article published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience highlights the importance of the glymphatic system for brain health and ageing. Here are the key points:
The health of the glymphatic system declines with age, but research suggests there are ways of enhancing it to accelerate waste clearance from the brain:
Ultimately, we need more studies in humans to explore the therapeutic potentials of the glymphatic system. The existence of the glymphatic system was only proven in 2012, and the best techniques for monitoring glymphatic function in living humans are still being figured out. We hope this fascinating discovery can open new avenues for exploring the mysteries of the brain and for slowing down brain ageing.
The glymphatic system: a new perspective on brain diseases https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2023.1179988
Title image by vecstock, Freepik