Newly discovered vessels beneath skull could link brain and immune system
The discovery of vessels, nestled just beneath the skull, overturns decades of textbook teaching and could pave the way for new approaches to treating brain diseases.
“These vessels were just not supposed to be there based on what we know,” said Jonathan Kipnis, who led the work at the University of Virginia. “I thought the body was mapped and that these discoveries ended somewhere around the middle of the last century. But apparently they have not.”
“In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain. We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels,” said Kipnis. A condition like diabetes, he added, which impacts the immune system throughout the body, could also be impairing the brain’s ability to clear away the toxic proteins that are the hallmarks of the disease.
The new anatomy is an extension of the lymphatic system, a network of vessels that runs in parallel to the body’s vasculature, carrying immune cells rather than blood. Rather than stopping at the base of the skull, the vessels were discovered to extend throughout the meninges, a membrane that envelops the brain and the spinal cord.
Read the full article: The Guardian > Science > Immunology
Article by Hannah Devlin, the Guardian’s science correspondent