Improving flow in lymph nodes in the neck improves memory and learning and could reduce memory loss from aging

The lymphatic vessels long thought not to exist are essential to the brain’s ability to cleanse itself. UVA researchers were able to use a compound to improve the flow of waste from the brain to the lymph nodes in the neck of aged mice. The vessels became larger and drained better, and that had a direct effect on the mice’s ability to learn and remember.

This is the first time that we can actually enhance cognitive ability in an old mouse by targeting this lymphatic vasculature around the brain.

The researchers determined that obstructing the vessels in mice worsens the accumulation of harmful amyloid plaques in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s. This may help explain the buildup of such plaques in people, the cause of which is not well understood.

They will develop a drug to improve the performance of the lymphatic vessels in people. They signed a contract with biopharmaceutical company PureTech Health to develop a drug.

The best way to treat Alzheimer’s might be to combine vasculature repair with other approaches. Improving the flow through the meningeal lymphatic vessels might even overcome some of the obstacles that have doomed previously promising treatments, moving them from the trash heap to the clinic.