Researchers Discover Missing Link Between Brain And Immune System

shutterstock_292726181A recent discovery by researchers may overturn decades long ideas about the connection between the brain and the immune system. Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels that were previously thought as non-existent. This discovery may have wide-ranging implications in the study and potential treatment of different diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.

According to Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, a professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and the director of the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia at UVA, “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.”

The discovery was made possible by the work of Antoine Louveau, PhD and a post-doctoral fellow in Kipnis’ lab. The vessels were found after Louveau developed a method of mounting a mouse’s meninges, which are membranes covering the brain, on a single slide so researchers can examine them as a whole.

After the researcher noticed vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells on the slides, Louveau tested for lymphatic vessels and there they were. As to why the brain’s lymphatic vessels were able to escape notice all this time, the researchers noted that the said vessels were well hidden, following a major blood vessel down into the sinuses an area that researchers say are very difficult to image.

The unexpected discovery of the lymphatic vessels in the brain raises a lot of questions that may now need to be addressed by further studies. Researchers need to know how these vessels affect the inner workings of the brain and the diseases that may damage it. Previous knowledge regarding the central nervous system and the immune system may now need to be changed or modified to highlight this new discovery.
Source: University of Virginia Health System. (2015, June 1). Missing link found between brain, immune system; major disease implications. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 9, 2015 from

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