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A lymphatic waste-disposal system implicated in Alzheimer’s disease

The discovery that a set of lymphatic vessels interacts with blood vessels to remove toxic waste products from the brain has implications for cognition, ageing and disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease has been reported.

A network of lymphatic vessels acts in tandem with the blood vasculature to regulate fluid balance in the body. The brain does not have its own lymphatic network, but the cellular membranes around the brain, known as the meninges, do have a network of lymphatic vessels. This meningeal lymphatic system was first found in 1787 and has been ‘rediscovered’ this decade. Do the meningeal lymphatics have a role in brain diseases, as systemic lymphatic vessels do in systemic diseases such as cancer1? In a paper in Nature, Da Mesquita et al. show that meningeal lymphatic vessels help to maintain both cognitive function and the proper levels of proteins in brain fluids (a process called proteostasis). The finding has implications for normal ageing and disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

 

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