Researchers from the University of Virginia state that “years of textbook teaching” have been overturned by their investigators, who have identified a previously hidden link between the brain and the immune system.
Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in The University of Virginia’s (UVa), states that his team’s finding “changes completely the way we perceive the neuro-immune connections. We usually identified it before this study as something esoteric that can’t be researched. But after this study we can ask mechanistic questions.”
Not only is it amazing that the vessels connecting these two bodily systems have escaped detection for so long – when the lymphatic system has been so extensively studied – but the investigators say the discovery could have a massive effect on the research and therapy of neurological diseases like as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Prof. Kipnis explains
“Instead of asking, ‘How do we research the immune reaction of the brain?’, ‘Why do several sclerosis sufferers have the immune problems?’, now we can deal this mechanistically, simply because the brain is like each and every other tissue linked to the peripheral immune system via meningeal lymphatic vessels.”
These secretive vessels were found thanks to the work of a postdoctoral fellow Antoine Louveau, who developed a new approach to count the membranes protecting the brains of a mouse on a single slide. This engaged obtaining the membranes – identified as meninges – to the skullcap before dissection.
Louveau then observed a vessel like structure in the distribution of the immune cells he was examining.
“I called Jony [Kipnis] to the microscope and I mentioned, ‘I think we have something,'” Louveau recalls.
A simple examine for lymphatic vessels proved their existence.
“I actually did not believe there are structures in the human body that we are unaware of. I believed the body was mapped.” “I considered that these findings ended somewhere about the middle of the previous century. But obviously they have not.”
Prof. Kipnis states that the vessels are “extremely well hidden,” describing why it has taken such a long time for them to be identified. “It is really so close to the blood vessel, you simply miss it. If you do not know what you are after, you simply miss it.”
Could the presence of the vessels describe certain factors of Alzheimer’s?
For the UVa team, the finding of the lymphatic vessels could guide to fresh information of how both the brain – and the conditions impacting it – function.
As an example, Prof. Kipnis points to the build-ups of protein in the brain that are attribute of Alzheimer’s, indicating these clumps may be building up because they are not being effectively eliminated by the lymphatic vessels.
The team is eager to examine how aging might impact the role the vessels play, too, noticing visible variations in the vessels that appear to associate to age.
University of Virginia’s chairman of Neuroscience Department Kevin Lee stated
“The initial time these people demonstrated me the primary outcome, I just said one sentence: ‘They will have to change the textbooks.’ There has never been a lymphatic system for the CNS, and it was clear from that first singular observation – and they have done many experiments since then to improve the finding .Iit will essentially change the way individuals look at the central nervous system’s association with the immune system.”