This is pretty huge!

Missing link found between brain, immune system – with major disease implications

  • Vessels directly connecting brain, lymphatic system exist despite decades of doctrine that they don’t
  • Finding may have substantial implications for major neurological diseases
  • Game-changing discovery opens new areas of research, transforms existing ones
  • Major gap in understanding of the human body revealed
  • ‘They’ll have to change the textbooks’

In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis

“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.”

Caption: Maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect UVA’s discovery. Credit: University of Virginia Health System

YOUR DOCTOR COULD GROW A TINY VERSION OF YOUR BRAIN IN A DISH

“This new technique allows researchers to use the same stem cells from a patient’s skin to create a three-dimensional complex of neurons, as well as their supporting glial cells, that closely resembles the structure of the actual brain. The process requires fewer steps than previous methods, and the “budding cortex” may also lend itself to brain slicing, which, when it’s more sophisticated, could allow researchers to get a better look a how circuitry disorders affect the brain.”

How Our Eyes Stay Sharp - Researchers discover How Our Brains keep images clear even as our eyes move

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Shiley Eye Institute have identified the molecular “glue” that builds the brain connections that keep visual images clear and still, even as objects or your eyes move. Using mouse models, the researchers demonstrate that image stabilization depends upon two proteins, Contactin-4 and amyloid precursor protein, binding during embryonic development.

“Sensors in the eye also detect movement and connect to the brain in just the right way to tell your eyes to move in the right direction without blurring images, the way a camera does if you try to take a picture while moving. Until now, we didn’t really understand how the eye and brain control that on a molecular level,” said senior author Andrew D. Huberman, PhD.

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This research was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health (grant RO1EY022157), National Science Foundation (grant DGE-1144086), E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind and Pew Charitable Trusts.

I think that once you get to a point in college that you get the study the human brain you realize how amazing it is. Right there in front of you it’s a person’s whole life, it’s a person’s feelings, a person’s thoughts, a person’s moments, a person’s memory. I don’t think you get to understand how much that means, until you actually see a brain up close and when you stop to think that that once made part of a person, a person very much like you and me, with feelings and memories.
—  thoughts from my girlfriend