The brain, like muscles and joints, stiffens with age.
New research shows that increasing brain stiffness with age leads to a brainstem dysfunction that is younger, healthier, possibly affecting the future treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (Cambridge University) team at Wellcome-MRC studied old and young rat brains to understand the effects of aging stiffening of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs).
These cells are crucial for maintaining normal brain function and for the regeneration of myelin, the multiple sclerosis (MS) -damaged, nerve-surrounding fat sheath.  The effects of age on these cells contribute to MS, but their function also decreases in healthy people with age.
Dr. Kevin Chalut, who led the research, said, "We were intrigued to see that functioning rat brain stem cells on the rigid material degraded the cells and lost their ability to regenerate, actually like aged cells started to work.
"What was particularly interesting, however, was that the old brain cells, when bred on the soft material, began to work like young cells ̵
In the study published in the Nature Journal, researchers have transplanted older OPCs from old rats into the soft, spongy brains of younger animals.
They found that the older brain cells were rejuvenated and began to behave like the younger, stronger cells.
Subsequently, the researchers developed new materials to varying degrees in the laboratory. The materials were engineered to be as soft as young or old brains.
After the brain's softness and stiffness affected cell behavior, the researchers studied Piezo1 – a protein on the cell surface that informs the cell whether the environment is soft or stiff.
"When we removed Piezo1 from the surface of the aged brain stem We were able to induce the cells to sense a soft environment even when growing on the stiff material," said Professor Robin Franklin, who led the research.
Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, Research Director at The MS Society, which co-funded the research, said, "MS is relentless, painful, and disabling, and treatments that can slow down and prevent the accumulation of disability over time are urgently needed.
"The Cambridge team's findings on how the brain works The age of stem cells and the possible reversal of this process have important implications for future treatment, as it gives us a new target, aging and MS related problems, including the course of action to possibly regain lost function in the brain. "