The Glymphatic System
A breakthrough discovery in how our brains get rid of waste has recently been announced by the University of Rochester. The brain, like any organ in the body has to have a means to rid itself of toxins and waste materials but until now, this system was only partly understood. The newly discovered system has been christened “The Glymphatic System” as a nod to the similarities which it shares with the Lymphatic System.
The brain of the human being is highly organised and scientists have for some time been looking into the ways in which is clears itself of waste; now, thanks to studies on the brains of mice who share many characteristics with humans in terms of their brains, have revealed the amazing methods in which the brain manages it’s waste.
For a long time, scientists have understood that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was responsible for carrying away waste matter as well as moving important nutrients to the tissues which need them; this is called diffusion. The new discoveries however indicate that the CSF is carried much further around the brain than previously thought and this is known as “bulk flow”.
What scientists now realise is that the previously understood method for carrying CSF around the brain is a very slow one, the newly discovered method is highly speedy and pressurized….almost forceful in its task of carrying CSF around. The Glymphatic System is rather like an extra pipe…or many pipes…which surround blood vessels and carry CSF around the brain.
This has never before been noted because the only time it may be well observed is in a living, fully functioning brain…which of course is not something scientists get to study at their leisure!
The ramifications of this discovery are huge. Scientists are already looking at how the Glymphatic System affects sufferers of Alzheimer’s Disease and have found that a protein called Ameloid Beta which is present is those who suffer from the disease, is usually partly removed by the Glymphatic System…so a link to one of the causes of Alzheimer’s has been established.
Scientists are now speculating that if a way to speed up the Glymphatic System can be found, then the brains of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s may be improved in their functionality by the assistance provided in ridding it of waste products which may impede it’s function.
It has also been noted that it is during sleep that these “cleaning” repairs are done and that the brain cells actually shrink to allow for more space between cells for the Glymphatic System to do its job thouroughly. The system may be thought of as a plumbing system for the brain and one which essentially washes away detritus and allows the brain to start afresh daily.
Research is ongoing and continues to move forward…what is clear is that this discovery is huge and could have far reaching consequences for many people all over the world as the effects of the Glymphatic System are researched further in relation to other brain disorders.
By Nicola Sutton