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Never Before Known: Brain Has Highly Organized Cleansing System

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Getting rid of waste from the body is one of the essentials of staying healthy. We all know that human body is a marvelous self-cleaning machine, cleaning its own self with the use of body parts. Skin, liver, kidneys, colon, lungs and lymph system are the names that come to mind when we think of major elimination organs of the body.

Ever wondered how the brain, which has no lymphatic drainage system like other organs, gets rid of its waste?

Well, that's what neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center, led by Maiken Nedergaard, have discovered - a previously unrecognized system that drains waste from the brain at a rapid rate. Scientists came upon this previously unrecognized system in mice, whose brains are remarkably similar to the human brain.

The newly discovered system has been named "the glymphatic system," since it acts much like the lymphatic system but is managed by brain cells known as glial cells.

According to the scientists, the cleansing system in the brain is highly organized and acts like a series of pipes that piggyback on the brain's blood vessels, serving similar to what the lymph system does in the rest of the body - to get rid of waste products.

Since the brain lacks lymphatic system, up until this new discovery, it's been thought that the cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, cleanses brain tissue, carries away waste products and carries nutrients to brain tissue through a process known as diffusion. The new discovery hints that the brain's mechanisms to rid itself of waste are more specialized and extensive than previously realized.

The cleansing system operates only when it is intact and when it is in the living brain. Since earlier scientists studied only sections of brain tissue that had already died, the system could have gone unnoticed for so long. But Nedergaard's team studied a living, whole brain of the animal using a technology known as two-photon microscopy.

The researchers believe that the discovery of glymphatic system could offer clues to treating many conditions that involve the brain, such as traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, stroke and Parkinson's disease.

by RTT Staff Writer

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