Saturday, June 6, 2015

Lymph Vessels Surround Brain, New Research Shows

In a paradigm-shifting discovery, neuroscientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have found that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by lymphatic vessels that were previously undiscovered, and not thought to exist, defying current textbook teachings. The finding may have substantial implications in the study and treatment of major neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

"We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role," Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG) said in a press release. "Hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component."

‘They'll have to change the textbooks.’

Previously thought to end at the base of the brain, the lymphatic system is comprised of vessels that carry lymph, a clear-to-white fluid filled with white blood cells that help remove toxins from the body. The lymphatic system has been very well mapped and is known to be connected to various systems in the body, but this is the first time that it has been detected in the tissues surrounding the brain, known as the meninges.

Maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect UVA's discovery.
Maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect UVA's discovery.
Credit: University of Virginia Health System

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Immune System is Connected to the Brain, Groundbreaking Research Shows

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