The Aging Brain: A Case Of Bad Waste Management

In the aging brain waste builds as the pace of removal gradually slows. Credit: Dominic Alves 

As the brain ages, it becomes less efficient at recycling and eliminating build up of waste; 'removal vans' fail to do the rounds, and accumulation starts to overtake removal. 

"We found that people in their 30s typically take about four hours to clear half the amyloid beta 42 from the brain," says Randall J. Bateman. "In this new study, we show that at over 80 years old, it takes more than 10 hours."

Research has uncovered that a protein called amyloid beta 42 (a natural byproduct of neural activity), is normally removed effectively in youth but the rate of clearance was found to slow progressively with age. Accumulation of amyloid beta 42 can lead to aggregation and consequent plaque formation and a slowdown in removal was tied to symptoms of dysfunction including memory loss and personality change. The study found that the brain disposes of this protein through a number of channels, and more work could uncover ways of boosting waste mangement in ailing brains, thus avoiding this toxic accumulation.    

“Through additional studies like this, we’re hoping to identify which of the first three channels for amyloid beta disposal are slowing down as the brain ages,” Bateman says. “That may help us in our efforts to develop new treatments.”

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