The brain ages as much as the muscles and joints, scientists say.
New research suggests that increasing age-related brain stiffness causes brain stem dysfunction. younger, healthier states, potentially affecting future treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS).
The team, based at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (University of Cambridge), studied old and young rat bras to understand the effect of age-related stiffness on oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPC).
These cells are essential for maintaining normal brain function, and for the regeneration of myelin – the fatty sheath that surrounds the nerves and is damaged by multiple sclerosis (MS).  The effects of age on these cells contribute to MS, but their function has also declined with age in healthy humans.
Dr Kevin Chalut, lead researcher, said: "We were fascinated to find that when we were young, functioning rat brain cells in hard material, cells became dysfunctional and lost their ability to regenerate, and in fact began to function as mature cells.
"What is particularly interesting, however, is that when old brain cells are growing in soft material, they began to function like young cells – in other words, they were stagnant. ”
In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers moved older OPCs from aged rats to the soft, thin brains of younger animals.
They found that the old brain cells were regenerated, and began to act like younger, more vigorous cells.
Next, researchers developed new materials in the lab with different degrees. of tightness, and it has been used to grow and study rat brain stem cells in a controlled environment.
The materials were engineered to have a similar softness to either young or old brains.
To fully understand h Brain softness and tightness influence cell behavior, researchers investigated Piezo1 – a protein found on the cell surface, which signals to the cell whether its soft or hard environment .
"When we remove Piezo1 from the surface of the adult stem cells, we are able to deceive the cells to detect a soft surrounding environment, even as they grow in hard material," he says. by Professor Robin Franklin, led by research.
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, funded by the research, said: "MS is relentless, painful and disabling, and treatments that can slow and prevent the accumulation of disability in over time is indispensable.
"The Cambridge team's discovery of how the brain stem cells age and how this process can be reversed has important implications for future treatment, as it provides this gives us a new target to address issues related to aging and MS, including how to potentially recover lost brain function. ”