According to a recent study from North Carolina State University (NCSU), a protein called MARCKS may be responsible for protecting the brain from aging-related damage. The protein is produced by specialized barrier cells in the brain and helps in the transportation of cerebrospinal fluid through the brain.
MARCKS stands for Myristoylated Alanine-Rich C-Kinase Substrate and has already been shown to be necessary for cell motility and the transport of liquids across cell membranes, otherwise known as transmembrane transport. For this reason, it plays an important role in certain brain barrier cells by allowing them "to serve as a barrier and transport system for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain," according to NCSU news. CSF is responsible for circulating nutrients from the bloodstream throughout the brain and removing waste products.
The NCSU researchers removed the MARCKS protein from barrier cells, initially believing that the protein was involved in their development. Instead, they found that the cells without MARCKS developed normally but went through the development process at an abnormal rate, aging rapidly and losing their barrier and transport abilities. This, in turn, led to accelerated aging throughout the rest of the brain.
"It seems that MARCKS is critical for the trafficking and clearance of some proteins through these ependymal [barrier] cells," NCSU neurobiology professor Troy Ghashghaei said in a statement. "We found a similar increase in oxidative stress and decrease in barrier function in older ependymal cells. It may be that disrupting the normal function of these cells – either through loss of a protein like MARCKS or the aging process – may trigger the onset of certain neurological conditions or help explain the process of cognitive decline."
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