2 April 2024

Maiken Nedergaard's glymphatic system research earns top scientific honor


Professor Maiken Nedergaard at the University of Copenhagen is the recipient of the 2024 HFSP Nakasone Award, recognizing pioneering contributions to life sciences and neurology.

Dr Nedergaard
It’s also strong recognition of the wonderful group of researchers we’ve established in the Center for Translational Neuromedicine, says Dr. Nedergaard.

Professor Maiken Nedergaard has been honored with the 2024 HFSP Nakasone Award by the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO). The recognition is based upon her groundbreaking research into the glymphatic system, an important component involved in brain health and sleep regulation.

Established in 2010, the HFSP Nakasone Award celebrates scientists who have made significant breakthroughs in life sciences. To date, it has provided assistance to over 8,500 researchers from more than 70 countries, with 29 HFSP awardees later receiving the Nobel Prize.

“I am honored to receive the HFSP Nakasone Award 2024. It is a recognition of the importance of non-neuronal cells and the glymphatic system in brain health. It’s also strong recognition of the wonderful group of researchers we’ve established in the Center for Translational Neuromedicine,” she says.

Professor Maiken Nedergaard, head of Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Copenhagen, has shed light on the glymphatic system's activity during sleep and its role in clearing metabolic waste from the brain. Her findings underscores the critical importance of maintaining healthy sleep patterns for overall brain function and longevity. The discovery has significantly reshaped the scientific community's understanding of sleep's role in maintaining brain function and preventing neurodegenerative diseases.

The implications of Dr. Nedergaard's research extend beyond theoretical understanding as her insights have paved the way for novel therapeutic targets aimed at combating neurodegenerative diseases.

Pavel Kabat, Secretary-General of HFSPO, emphasized the impact of Maiken Nedergaard's contributions, stating that her discoveries have fundamentally altered the perception of sleep as a crucial biological function that safeguards against conditions like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's disease.

“Dr. Nedergaard has changed the way we understand sleep as an essential biological function that promotes brain health and plays a crucial role in preventing diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, and Huntington Disease. It is a fundamental discovery worthy of being honored with the 2024 HFSP Nakasone Award,” he says.

One of Dr. Nedergaard’s most exciting insights regarding the glymphatic system is that it is primarily active during sleep and shuts down shortly after awakening. This observation may explain the century-old question of why we need to sleep: we sleep because we need to clear the brain of metabolic waste products that accumulate during wakefulness.

The loss of a normal sleep architecture accelerates the progression of neurodegenerative diseases by insufficient clearance of Amyloid-b, Tau, a-synuclein, huntingtin (Htt) and TDP-43 peptide/proteins. This concept has received considerable attention because dementing diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington diseases, as well as frontotemporal dementia, are often preceded by years of sleep disturbances.

Studies from Maiken Nedergaard’s lab have also shown that the glymphatic system deteriorates while we age and can be impaired by disrupted sleep, hypertension, and traumatic brain injury. In a world where seniors over the age of 65, constitute the fastest growing segment of our population, Nedergaard has provided transformative insights and ushered in a new era of therapeutic exploration that is essential for today’s patients.


Press Officer Søren Thiesen
+45 28 75 29 34