Think scientists have anatomy and physiology all figured out? Think again! Hi everyone! Crystal here for DNews talking about how the more scientists learn about the body, the less we really seem to know … what am I talking about? A recent discovery by scientists at the University of Virginia revealed a connection between the central nervous system (CNS) and the immune system that had gone unnoticed for centuries.
This discovery challenges current theories about basic brain-body interactions and could throw our current ideas on the development of some neurological diseases completely out the window! After learning about this discovery, one scientist was quoted as saying “they’ll have to rewrite the textbooks.” I find results like these so exciting because they demonstrate that the pursuit of new knowledge is a dynamic process. In the journal Nature, the scientists from UVA’s School of Medicine reported the existence of previously unknown vasculature carrying immune cells between the meninges -the protective tissue around the brain- and the cervical lymph nodes that are the hubs of our immune system. This discovery was made the same way a lot of big scientific discoveries are made: by accident. A scientist developing a new way to prepare slides of intact mouse meningeal tissue noticed an unexpected pattern of immune cells in the tissue under his microscope, and, because he’s a scientist, he just had to know why.
In science, unexpected results can mean big discoveries and this was no exception. In addition to draining interstitial fluids, classic lymphatic vessels carry the white blood cells of the immune system throughout the body. Prior to the discovery of these new vessels, no direct link between the brain and spinal cord and the Immune system had been found and it was thought that the brain was an area of mild “immune privilege” meaning able to tolerate insult or disease exposure without eliciting a rush of inflammation to the affected region.
This assumption left scientists in the dark about the mechanisms behind many neurological diseases that involve altered immunity. But now that this connection has been discovered, there is already speculation about whether impaired drainage or malfunction of these newly discovered lymphatic vasculature could contribute to the buildup of plaques in Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists have a new place to look when investigating the immune attacks experienced by patients with Multiple Sclerosis. The discovery of direct interaction between the CNS and the immune system changes how we think about the brain’s response to injury and the development of disease. Obviously, more research is needed and these groundbreaking results are nonetheless preliminary. But this exciting discovery will lead to further investigation into the vasculature structure surrounding the human brain and hopefully a more detailed understanding of human health and physiology. On the topic of new discoveries, some scientists are finding that young blood might have rejuvenating properties – at least in mice – but they’re still trying to figure out why.
Julia has more in this video .
As found on Youtube