The effect of aging on brain barriers and the consequences for Alzheimer's disease development

Mamm Genome. 2016 Aug;27(7-8):407-20. doi: 10.1007/s00335-016-9637-8. Epub 2016 May 3.


Life expectancy has increased in most developed countries, which has led to an increase in the proportion of elderly people in the world's population. However, this increase in life expectancy is not accompanied by a lengthening of the health span since aging is characterized with progressive deterioration in cellular and organ functions. The brain is particularly vulnerable to disease, and this is reflected in the onset of age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Research shows that dysfunction of two barriers in the central nervous system (CNS), the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) barrier (BCSFB), plays an important role in the progression of these neurodegenerative diseases. The BBB is formed by the endothelial cells of the blood capillaries, whereas the BCSFB is formed by the epithelial cells of the choroid plexus (CP), both of which are affected during aging. Here, we give an overview of how these barriers undergo changes during aging and in Alzheimer's disease, thereby disturbing brain homeostasis. Studying these changes is needed in order to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of aging at the brain barriers, which might lead to the development of new therapies to lengthen the health span (including mental health) and reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / pathology
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Central Nervous System
  • Choroid Plexus / metabolism*
  • Choroid Plexus / physiopathology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration