Good barriers make good neighbors

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Science  03 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6205, pp. 36-37
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260705

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The human brain exists in a unique environment, shielded from the blood and conditioned by its own remarkably active metabolism, yet dependent on the blood-brain interface to import nutrients and remove waste. Age-related decline in brain function is almost certainly caused by multiplexed pathways that incorporate intrinsic brain failure, worsening systemic environment, and accumulation of toxic metabolic waste. If we could identify and monitor alterations in an organ that reflects the determinants of age-associated decline, we might better understand how these changes arise and perhaps even counteract them. On page 89 in this issue, Baruch et al. (1) have done just that. They studied gene expression in a series of organs from young and old mice. The authors propose that the choroid plexus—a specialized structure lying deep within the brain—may provide a readout of the brain's overall status and may potentially mediate some facets of debility during aging.