The glymphatic system: implications for drugs for central nervous system diseases

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2022 Oct;21(10):763-779. doi: 10.1038/s41573-022-00500-9. Epub 2022 Aug 10.


In the past decade, evidence for a fluid clearance pathway in the central nervous system known as the glymphatic system has grown. According to the glymphatic system concept, cerebrospinal fluid flows directionally through the brain and non-selectively clears the interstitium of metabolic waste. Importantly, the glymphatic system may be modulated by particular drugs such as anaesthetics, as well as by non-pharmacological factors such as sleep, and its dysfunction has been implicated in central nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer disease. Although the glymphatic system is best described in rodents, reports using multiple neuroimaging modalities indicate that a similar transport system exists in the human brain. Here, we overview the evidence for the glymphatic system and its role in disease and discuss opportunities to harness the glymphatic system therapeutically; for example, by improving the effectiveness of intrathecally delivered drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease* / metabolism
  • Brain
  • Glymphatic System* / physiology
  • Humans