What Is the Link Between the Brain and the Immune System?

A new discovery links the brain and lymphatic system. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Image: Screenshot/YouTube
A new discovery links the brain and lymphatic system. (Screenshot/YouTube) Image: Screenshot/YouTube

There has been a recent discovery that may lead to a complete revision of biology textbooks.

It has been found that there is a link between the brain and the immune system.

Scientists have discovered vessels of the lymphatic system that run through the sinuses, which were previously unidentified and thought not to exist. But the true importance of this discovery will lie in what potential effects this finding will have on both the study and treatment of neurologic diseases.

The University of Virginia wrote: “That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own.”

Scientists made a stunning new discovery about the immune system:

The findings have been published online by the journal Nature, and will also appear in a forthcoming print edition. The newly discovered “central nervous system lymphatic system vessels” follow a major blood vessel down into the sinuses, an area that has been traditionally difficult to obtain images from.

Their presence is causing a stir in the medical world, as the researchers responsible believe the vessels may help to explain current medical mysteries, such as why patients with Alzheimer’s disease have accumulations of large protein plaques in the brain, wrote Medical Daily.

“Instead of asking ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?’or ‘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).


This discovery completely changes how scientists understand the lymphatic system. (Image: Shutterstock)

“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,” he added, in a press release.

“We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role,” Kipnis said. “Hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component.”

According to the University of Virginia, Kevin Lee, Ph.D., chairman of the UVA Department of Neuroscience, described his reaction to the discovery by Kipnis’ lab: “The first time these guys showed me the basic result, I just said one sentence: ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks.’ 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.”

Kipnis was also sceptical at first, saying: “I really did not believe there are structures in the body that we are not aware of. I thought the body was mapped, I thought that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”

With this new discovery, there are a lot of questions that might be answered that scientists have had no answers for.

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