Scientists Discover 'Signature Of Aging' In The Brain

First Posted: Sep 29, 2014 07:51 PM EDT

Though scientists are still working to determine just how the brain ages, new research illustrates evidence that the organ's immune interaction occurs across a barrier that is actually a unique interface within the brain's territory.

The interface, known as the choroid plexus, can be found in each of the brain's four ventricles, and separates the blood from the cerebrospinal fluid.

"The choroid plexus acts as a ‘remote control' for the immune system to affect brain activity," said lead study author Weizmann Institute researchers Prof. Michal Schwartz of the Neurobiology Department and Dr. Ido Amit, in a news release. "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."

This information made the researchers believe that cognitive decline is linked not just to chronological age but also to immunological age and how those changes contribute to the brain's function, overall.

Researchers worked to examined how sequencing technology could map changes in gene expression in 11 different organs, including choroid plexus, in both young and aged mice, to better 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, which appears to have a negative effect on the brain:

The scientists said they 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.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal Science.

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