The discovery of the anchor protein, which guards the environment in which the brain can function properly, could eventually improve diagnosis and treatment for people with brain diseases such as stroke, vascular dementia and brain tumours, scientists at the University of Portsmouth say.
The protein, one of a group tasked with protecting the brain, makes sure water is being pumped between the blood and the brain. Its role is to help astrocytes which form part of the blood brain barrier which exists to ensure brain cells do not come into direct contact with blood which would cause them to malfunction.
The research team is now testing to see if there is less of the protein in ageing brains which could explain the rise in brain dysfunction in older people.
"We knew astrocytes had an important role to play in the blood brain barrier but until now we didn't know that this protein, found specifically in astrocytes, protects the brain from swelling and from causing it to function abnormally," Professor Gorecki said.