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.”

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.
“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?’ 'Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?’ now we can approach this mechanistically. Because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.”
“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.”

The unexpected presence of the lymphatic vessels raises a tremendous number of questions that now need answers, both about the workings of the brain and the diseases that plague it. For example, take Alzheimer’s disease. “In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain,” Kipnis said. “We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.” He noted that the vessels look different with age, so the role they play in aging is another avenue to explore. And there’s an enormous array of other neurological diseases, from autism to multiple sclerosis, that must be reconsidered in light of the presence of something science insisted did not exist.

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

Great strides have since been made in the art of anatomy, physiology and all branches of science, and the workings of the man-machine are now perfectly clear. Yet the very fewest among us are able to trace their actions to primary external causes. lt is indispensable to the arguments I shall advance to keep in mind the main facts which I have myself established in years of close reasoning and observation and which may be summed up as follows:

1. The human being is a self-propelled automaton entirely under the control of external influences. Willful and predetermined though they appear, his actions are governed not from within, but from without. He is like a float tossed about by the waves of a turbulent sea.

2. There is no memory or retentive faculty based on lasting impression. What we designate as memory is but increased responsiveness to repeated stimuli.

3. It is not true, as Descartes taught, that the brain is an accumulator. There is no permanent record in the brain, there is no stored knowledge. Knowledge is something akin to an echo that needs a disturbance to be called into being.

4. All knowledge or form conception is evoked through the medium of the eye, either in response to disturbances directly received on the retina or to their fainter secondary effects and reverberations. Other sense organs can only call forth feelings which have no reality of existence and of which no conception can be formed

5. Contrary to the most important tenet of Cartesian philosophy that the perceptions of the mind are illusionary, the eye transmits to it the true and accurate likeness of external things. This is because light propagates in straight lines and the image cast on the retina is an exact reproduction of the external form and one which, owing to the mechanism of the optic nerve, can not be distorted in the transmission to the brain. What is more, the process must be reversible, that in to say, a form brought to consciousness can, by reflex action, reproduce the original image on the retina just as an echo can reproduce the original disturbance If this view is borne out by experiment an immense revolution in all human relations and departments of activity will be the consequence.

—  Nikola Tesla. “HOW COSMIC FORCES SHAPE OUR DESTINIES”. New York American. February 7, 1915.