Osmosis used to be considered the primary method of transporting water into the brain, but researchers believe that they have identified the real cause of it.
What Did Scientists Discover About Water In The Brain?
Scientists at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark have just discovered that NKCC1, an ion transporter, is responsible for moving half of the cerebrospinal fluid into the brain. The role of this clear and colorless fluid is to provide protection for the brain.
The findings were published in a study in the journal Nature Communications on June 4.
Nearly half a liter of water moves from the blood to the brain on a daily basis. Although scientists previously knew that osmosis and the choroid plexus, a brain tissue, played a role in this process, it was clear that there had to be a primary driver. This research is the first of its kind to focus on the process of how water is transported into the brain.
How Did Scientists Find This Link?
To reach this conclusion, researchers examined mice as part of an experiment. They first ruled out osmosis as the primary driver by inhibiting water transporters in the brains of mice. Once they eliminated osmosis, the researchers carefully studied more about the NKCC1 co-transporter.
Since mice were used in the experiment, there is some concern that the findings may not be as relevant for humans.
Future Implications Of The NKCC-1 Discovery
If these findings do hold up for humans, then this could be a major medical breakthrough. Scientists hope that the information can be used to treat brain disorders, such as blood clots, hydrocephalus, and brain hemorrhages. Typically, doctors would have to resort to treating certain brain dysfunctions by drilling holes so that fluid can drain out. With this knowledge, doctors might be able to control the water system of the brain without having to resort to an invasive procedure.
"It would be ground-breaking if we were able to use this mechanism as a target for medical treatment and turn down the inflow of water to the brain to reduce intracranial pressure," said neuroscientist Nanna MacAulay. "At worst, the patient may suffer permanent damage and even die as a result of increased pressure."
The next step for researchers is to target the mechanism of water transport into the brain with medicine. If the results look promising, it could revolutionize how certain patients receive treatment for brain-related diseases. There many issues related to water in the brain and this has been the first major research into potentially solving that.