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BrainsSweepThemselvesCleanOfToxinsDuringSleep:ShotsHealthNews:NPR

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ROBERTSIEGEL,HOST:
Thequestionofwhypeopleandanimalsneedsleephasbotheredscientistsfor
decades.Andnow,researchersthinkthatthey'vefoundatleastpartoftheanswer.
NPR'sJonHamiltonreportsonastudythatshowsthatduringsleep,thebrainflushes
outtoxins,includingasubstancelinkedtoAlzheimer'sdisease.
JONHAMIILTON,BYLINE:Fromanevolutionarypointofview,sleepseemslikea
badidea.Afterall,whenyou'resnoozing,it'seasyforanothercreaturetoremoveyou
fromthegenepool.That'sespeciallytrueifyou'reasmallrodent,saystheUniversity
ofRochester'sMaikenNedergaard.
DR.MAIKENNEDERGAARD:Foraanimallikeamouseorrat,it'sverydangerousto
sleepbecauseit'smuchmorevulnerableforcatsthatwouldcomeandeatit.
JONHAMILTON,BYLINE:Sosleepmusthavesomereallyimportantsurvival
function.Tofindoutwhatthatmightbe,Nedergaardledateamthatstudiedthe
brainsofsleepingmice.Andthescientistsnoticedthatduringsleep,somethingodd
washappeningtothesystemthatcirculatescerebrospinalfluidthroughthebrainand
nervoussystem.
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BrainsSweepThemselvesCleanOfToxinsDuringSleep:ShotsHealthNews:NPR

NEDERGAARD:Itwaspumpingfluidintothebrainandremovingfluidfromthe
braininaveryrapidpace.
HAMILTON:Nedergaardsaystheteamrealizedthiswaspossibleinpartbecause
whenmicewenttosleep,theirbraincellsactuallyshrank,soitwaseasierforfluidto
circulate.Whenananimalwokeup,shesays,thebraincellsenlargedagainandthe
flowbetweencellsslowedtoatrickle.
NEDERGAARD:It'salmostlikeopeningandclosingafaucet.It'sthatdramatic.
HAMILTON:Nedergaardandherteamhadpreviouslyshownthatthefluidwas
carryingawaywasteproductsthatbuildupinthespacesbetweencells.
NEDERGAARD:It'slikeadishwasher.It'sfloatingbyallthecells,whicharethe
dishes,andwashingthem.
HAMILTON:That'simportantbecausewhat'sgettingwashedawayduringsleepare
wasteproteinsthataretoxictobraincells.Nedergaardsaysthisprocesscouldexplain
whywedon'tthinkclearlyafterasleeplessnightandwhyaprolongedlackofsleepcan
actuallykillananimaloraperson.Butwhydoesn'tthebraindothissortof
housekeepingallthetime?Nedergaardthinksit'sbecausecleaningtakesalotof
energy.
NEDERGAARD:It'sprobablynotpossibleforthebraintobothcleanitselfandatthe
sametimebeingawareofthesurroundingsandtalkandmoveandsoon.
HAMILTON:Andthatwouldexplainwhyanimalshaveevolvedtoneedsleep.
Nedergaardsaysthecleaningprocesshasbeenobservedinratsandbaboonsbutnot
yetinhumans.Evenso,itcouldofferanewwayofunderstandinghumanbrain
diseases,includingAlzheimer's.That'sbecauseoneofthewasteproductsremoved
fromthebrainduringsleepisbetaamyloid,thesubstancethatformsstickyplaques
associatedwithAlzheimer's.Nedergaardsaysthat'sprobablynotacoincidence.
NEDERGAARD:Isn'titinterestingthatAlzheimerandallotherdiseasesassociated
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withdementia,theyarelinkedtosleepdisorders.Sothepatientwouldsleeplessand
lessandtheywouldnothavedeepsleep.
HAMILTON:ResearcherswhostudyAlzheimer'ssayNedergaard'sresearchcould
helpexplainanumberofrecentfindingsrelatedtosleep.RandallBatemanof
WashingtonUniversityinSt.Louiswaspartofateamthatstudiedhowsleepaffects
levelsofthatAlzheimer'sprotein,betaamyloid.
DR.RANDALLBATEMAN:Betaamyloidconcentrationscontinuetoincreasewhilea
personisawake.Andthenafterpeoplegotosleep,thatconcentrationofbetaamyloid
decreases.Thisreportprovidesabeautifulmechanismbywhichthismaybe
happening.
HAMILTON:Batemansaysthereportalsooffersatantalizinghintofanewapproach
toAlzheimer'sprevention.
BATEMAN:Itdoesraisethepossibilitythatonemightbeabletoactuallycontrolsleep
inawaytoimprovetheclearanceofbetaamyloidandhelppreventamyloidosisthat
wethinkcanleadtoAlzheimer'sdisease.
HAMILTON:ThenewresearchappearsinthejournalScience.JonHamilton,NPR
News.
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