More Investigation of the Choroid Plexus in Brain Aging

A fair amount of research over the years has pointed to dysfunction of the choroid plexus as a contributing factor to degeneration in the brain. This structure generates and filters cerebrospinal fluid, and is thus its decline is a candidate reason as to why metabolic wastes such as the amyloid involved in Alzheimer's disease are found in growing amounts in the aging brain. Here researchers may have found a way to partially compensate for one aspect of this decline:

Until a decade ago, scientific dogma held that the blood-brain barrier prevents the blood-borne immune cells from attacking and destroying brain tissue. [However] the immune system actually plays an important role both in healing the brain after injury and in maintaining the brain's normal functioning. They have found that this brain-immune interaction occurs across a barrier that is actually a unique interface within the brain's territory. This interface, known as the choroid plexus, is found in each of the brain's four ventricles, and it separates the blood from the cerebrospinal fluid. "The choroid plexus acts as a 'remote control' for the immune system to affect brain activity. Biochemical 'danger' signals released from the brain are sensed through this interface; in turn, blood-borne immune cells assist by communicating with the choroid plexus. This cross-talk is important for preserving cognitive abilities and promoting the generation of new brain cells."

[Researchers] suggest that cognitive decline over the years may be connected not only to one's "chronological age" but also to one's "immunological age," that is, changes in immune function over time might contribute to changes in brain function - not necessarily in step with the count of one's years. To test this theory, [the] researchers used next-generation sequencing technology to map changes in gene expression in 11 different organs, including the choroid plexus, in both young and aged mice, to identify and compare pathways involved in the aging process.

That is how they identified a strikingly unique "signature of aging" that exists solely in the choroid plexus - not in the other organs. They discovered that one of the main elements of this signature was interferon beta - a protein that the body normally produces to fight viral infection. This protein appears to have a negative effect on the brain: When the researchers injected an antibody that blocks interferon beta activity into the cerebrospinal fluid of the older mice, their cognitive abilities were restored, as was their ability to form new brain cells. The scientists were also able to identify this unique signature in elderly human brains. The scientists hope that this finding may, in the future, help prevent or reverse cognitive decline in old age, by finding ways to rejuvenate the "immunological age" of the brain.

Link: http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/scientists-identify-the-signature-of-aging-in-the-brain

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