Researchers Find Missing Link Between Brain & Immune System

In summary, the researchers have discovered a new anatomical structure in the brain that may be responsible for linking the immune system to the brain. This finding has major implications for research on diseases like MS and Alzheimer's, and might lead to new treatments.
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  • #2
Very interesting! Thanks for posting the link.

The findings have been published online by the prestigious journal Nature and will appear in a forthcoming print edition. The article was authored by Louveau, Smirnov, Timothy J. Keyes, Jacob D. Eccles, Sherin J. Rouhani, J. David Peske, Noel C. Derecki, David Castle, James W. Mandell, Lee, Harris and Kipnis.

Funding: The study was funded by National Institutes of Health grants R01AG034113 and R01NS061973. Louveau was a fellow of Fondation pour la Recherche Medicale.
 
  • #3
Here's a link to the study that the news piece is reporting on:
Louveau et al. 2015. Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels. Nature. Published online 01 June 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14432

Abstract:
One of the characteristics of the central nervous system is the lack of a classical lymphatic drainage system. Although it is now accepted that the central nervous system undergoes constant immune surveillance that takes place within the meningeal compartment1, 2, 3, the mechanisms governing the entrance and exit of immune cells from the central nervous system remain poorly understood4, 5, 6. In searching for T-cell gateways into and out of the meninges, we discovered functional lymphatic vessels lining the dural sinuses. These structures express all of the molecular hallmarks of lymphatic endothelial cells, are able to carry both fluid and immune cells from the cerebrospinal fluid, and are connected to the deep cervical lymph nodes. The unique location of these vessels may have impeded their discovery to date, thereby contributing to the long-held concept of the absence of lymphatic vasculature in the central nervous system. The discovery of the central nervous system lymphatic system may call for a reassessment of basic assumptions in neuroimmunology and sheds new light on the aetiology of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases associated with immune system dysfunction.

The article seems to focus more on how the immune system interfaces with the brain than how the brain might affect the immune system. However, mood definitely will affect the immune system, and this is largely an effect of stress hormones that suppress the immune system.
 
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  • #4
interesting, Thanks

so it really does prove the old adage that " Laughter is the best medicine" :smile:

Dave
 
  • #5
I was actually going to post and ask about this, because I'm very interested in this but I don't know enough about it.

I'm seeing it on a number of pages, all touting it as "revolutionary", "a paradigm shift", the "medical discovery of the century", and that the researchers have discovered a heretofore completely unknown bodily system, that this has "game-changing" implications for research on autism, MS, and Alzheimer's, and that this is cause to "Rewrite the textbooks." Is this really as huge as they're saying?

Am I correct in my understanding that the researchers have essentially found lymph vessels in the meninges, and if that's the case, then what makes this so huge?

I would really appreciate if someone could explain it, since it looks interesting but I haven't had a biology or health science class since high school.
 
  • #6
Sensationalism. Even this article title, "missing link", as if there was this one thing missing and now all our problems are solved.
 
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  • #7
Pythagorean said:
Sensationalism. Even this article title, "missing link", as if there was this one thing missing and now all our problems are solved.

Well, in this case, it was quite literally a missing link. It was once thought that the brain had immune privilege and did not interact with the immune system. However, research over the past couple of decades began to change that view, so we knew a link existed, but we didn't know much more than that. This paper discovers the anatomical structure that provides at least one link between the immune system and the brain.

But yes, it does not solve all of our problems. However, like most good research, it can help spur some new hypotheses. For example, it would be interesting to look at these lymph vessels are any different between healthy people and people with diseases like MS (an autoimmune disorder) or Alzheimer's (a disease thought to be caused by defects in clearing a substance called amyloid-β from the celebrospinal fluid). I'm sure those working on developing antibodies to treat Alzheimer's are going to take a careful look at the paper. This study is not guaranteed to help in understanding the disease, and even if it does, it will take some time to translate that knowledge into potential treatment, but the finding is in itself of great interest to a number of researchers working in a number of different areas. I'd agree that it's not the medical discovery of the century (so far this century, that might be CRISPR), but it's still an important discovery.
 
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  • #8
That's fair, I didn't mean to imply the research itself is bunk. It sounds like an interesting find! My grandfather died of Alzheimers and we studied it along side Huntington's in my neuro lab stint, so I can appreciate the potential relevance.
 

Related to Researchers Find Missing Link Between Brain & Immune System

1. What is the significance of the discovery of a link between the brain and immune system?

The discovery of a link between the brain and immune system has major implications for our understanding of various neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's. It also sheds light on the role of the immune system in brain development and function.

2. How was this missing link between the brain and immune system discovered?

The missing link was discovered through the use of advanced imaging techniques, specifically a type of MRI called contrast-enhanced MRI. This allowed researchers to visualize lymphatic vessels in the meninges, which are the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

3. What does this mean for future research in the field of neuroscience?

This discovery opens up new avenues for research in the field of neuroscience. It allows scientists to further investigate the connection between the brain and immune system, and potentially develop new treatments for neurological disorders that target the immune system.

4. How does this finding relate to previous beliefs about the brain and immune system?

Previously, it was believed that the brain was completely separate from the immune system, with no direct connection. This discovery challenges that theory and suggests that the two systems are actually intricately linked, with the immune system playing a crucial role in brain function and health.

5. What are the potential practical applications of this discovery?

The discovery of a link between the brain and immune system could have practical applications in the development of treatments for neurological disorders. It could also lead to a better understanding of conditions that involve both the brain and immune system, such as autism and depression.

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