In 2015, Researchers discovered new information about the body’s lymphatic system. In fact, they found newly discovered vessels that directly connect the lymphatic system to the brain. Researchers from the University of Virginia published their findings in Nature.
Many scientists previously argued these vessels didn’t exist. Now, the new information alters what we understand about diseases like multiple sclerosis, autism, and Alzheimer’s.
“The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks,” said Kevin Lee, Ph.D., chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience. “There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation – and they’ve done many studies since then to bolster the finding – that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”
This amazing discovery means that textbooks will need to be rewritten. It is difficult to understand how these vessels escaped detection when scientists have thoroughly mapped them throughout the body. The most important result of this discovery will be the innovations in the study and treatment of neurological diseases.
“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?’ Now we can approach this mechanistically. Because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, Ph.D., professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuroimmune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.”
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