CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Univerisity of Virginia researchers have made a discovery that could lead to the prevention of Alzheimer's Disease and aging-related memory loss.
The research team, led by renowned neuroscientist Jonathan Kipnis, found that lymphatic vessels in the brain deteriorate with age. Those vessels play a role in "cleaning" the brain of amyloid plaques, which are implicated in Alzheimer's Disease.
Kipnis' lab is the same team that discovered the existence of lymphatic vessels in the brain in 2015, a discovery that was described as one of the biggest of the year in Science magazine.
In the more recent discovery, Lipnis' team showed that improving the vessels enhanced the cognitive abilities of aging mice.
“When you take naturally aging mice and you make them learn and remember better, that is really exciting,” Kipnis said in a release on the discovery. “If we can make old mice learn better, that tells me there is something that can be done. I’m actually very optimistic that one day we could live to a very, very, very old age and not develop Alzheimer’s.”
Now, the researchers hope to apply their discoveries to humans.
In an interview, UVA researcher Sandro Da Mesquita says the findings could lead to new therapeutic tools to improve the function of the lymphatic vessels.
He said such improvements likely wouldn't help people who already have advanced Alzheimer's or other age-related cognitive decline, but it could help prevent the deterioration of brain function in the first place.
"We can also understand if, in fact, the function of these vessels is changing on the aging process and develop tools to kind of predict this dysfunction and to know when to act along the aging process to kind of slow down, for instance, cognitive impairment related with aging," he said.
The study is published in the science journal "Nature."