US Scientists Discover Immune Tissue in Brain
After brain rat tests, researchers at the University of Medicine of Virginia (UVA) in the United States discovered the existence of a vast vessel system, called the "central nervous system lymphatic vessels, " in the human brain. The function of this "new part" of the body is precisely to drain fluid from the brain and bring it to the lymph nodes. The discovery was made by postdoctoral staff Antoine Loveau in the lab of Professor John Knipkis, director of the UVA Glia Cell and Immunology Center.
The study is causing excitement in the scientific community around the world, as lymphatic vessels have never been known to exist in the brain region. Understanding this new area discovered in human brains can help you understand and treat diseases and problems like Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Autism.
Difference between lymphatic system representation before (left) and after UVA researchers' discovery
To conclude that these lymphatic vessels exist in the brain, the researchers developed a method of mounting microscopic slides with rat brains without damaging the meninges. Meninges are delicate membranes that surround and protect the brain. Realizing a pattern of immune cell distributing vessels, they performed tests and confirmed the existence of lymphatic vessels. By testing in human brains, it was possible to verify the presence of the same types of vessels.
Professor John Knipkis was very ecstatic with the discovery. “We didn't know about these cells in the brain. When we identified these vessels, I was amazed, ”he told Mental Floss in an interview.
The difficulty in discovering this type of mechanism in the brain was due to the complexity and location of the organ. They are in the dural venous sinuses, which make the blood transition between the internal and external veins of the brain, and are close to an important larger blood vessel. It was these characteristics that made these vessels "invisible" to science until this moment.
As is imagined, these results promise to cause a revolution in the scientific community and the study of the human body, since the existing literature to this day disregards the existence of this system in the brain. Researchers have always struggled to understand how drainage and neurological inflammation worked.
These types of vessels are known for their performance in other body tissues. They are responsible for draining and combating any inflammation, bringing the fluids that originate them to the lymph cells where the immune system will act.
According to the research, the characteristics of the tissue found refer to the properties of lymphatic endothelial cells. They transport fluids and immune cells via cerebrospinal fluid to the cervical lymph nodes, which are the gateway to the immune system in the brain.
Despite the exaltation, Professor Knipkis remains cautious for the next steps. He pointed out that, by revealing this hitherto unknown system, it was already a big step, but the human brain is complex. Therefore, according to the professor, it will take many studies to reach the understanding and other many possible discoveries, for example, regarding the treatment of neurological diseases.