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Volume 560 Issue 7717, 9 August 2018

Brain drain

The task of removing waste products such as cellular debris and toxic molecules from the body’s tissues is performed by lymphatic vessels. In this week’s issue, Jonathan Kipnis and his colleagues reveal that the brain also makes use of this system, by moving macromolecular waste in cerebral fluids to be drained through lymphatic vessels located within the meninges — the membranes that cover the brain. They find that, in normal mice, cognitive function is reduced if the meningeal lymphatics become impaired. The researchers also show that ageing damages the lymphatics and that restoring their function is associated with recovered ‘brain cleansing’ and improved memory. Working with a mouse model for Alzheimer’s disease, the team reveals that if the meningeal lymphatic vessels are disrupted, clearance of the protein amyloid-β is impaired leading to accumulation in the brain, which worsens the amyloid pathology. The team suggests that targeting decline in the meningeal lymphatic system could be a useful therapeutic route to help combat age-related cognitive dysfunction.

Cover image: Ella Marushchenko and Elina Karimullina /Ella Maru Studio

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