Neurochemical Research

, Volume 40, Issue 12, pp 2583–2599 | Cite as

The Glymphatic System: A Beginner’s Guide

  • Nadia Aalling Jessen
  • Anne Sofie Finmann Munk
  • Iben Lundgaard
  • Maiken Nedergaard
Original Paper

Abstract

The glymphatic system is a recently discovered macroscopic waste clearance system that utilizes a unique system of perivascular tunnels, formed by astroglial cells, to promote efficient elimination of soluble proteins and metabolites from the central nervous system. Besides waste elimination, the glymphatic system also facilitates  brain-wide distribution of several compounds, including glucose, lipids, amino acids, growth factors, and neuromodulators. Intriguingly, the glymphatic system function mainly during sleep and is largely disengaged during wakefulness. The biological need for sleep across all species may therefore reflect that the brain must enter a state of activity that enables elimination of potentially neurotoxic waste products, including β-amyloid. Since the concept of the glymphatic system is relatively new, we will here review its basic structural elements, organization, regulation, and functions. We will also discuss recent studies indicating that glymphatic function is suppressed in various diseases and that failure of glymphatic function in turn might contribute to pathology in neurodegenerative disorders, traumatic brain injury and stroke.

Keywords

The glymphatic system Astrocytes Perivascular spaces Virchow–Robin spaces Cerebrospinal fluid secretion Sleep Aging Neurodegenerative diseases Traumatic brain injury 

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Medicine and DentistryUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA

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