Brain Pipes Serve as Drainage System for Cellular Waste
Just when we thought most everything had already been discovered about the brain, here comes the shocking discovery of the “brain pipes”. According to the study conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia, the brain pipes were serendipitously discovered in mice.
Just like other “pipes” found in almost every organ of the body, the brain pipes function as a complex drainage system that flushes out cellular waste.
This discovery has huge implications on how to approach certain conditions like autism and memory degeneration.
Lymphatic vessels, which piggyback on blood vessels, distribute immune cells to tissues to fight infection and carry fluid away from tissues to dispose of cellular waste. This complex drainage system has been found in nearly every part of the human body but not, until now, in the brain.
“No one knew there were those ‘pipes’ in there that could take out the brain’s trash,” said Jonathan Kipnis, director of the university’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia and the study’s senior author. “This is a huge leap in defining the lymphatic vessel system.”
When the body is fighting a foreign invader, such as a virus, the lymphatic system carries immune cells to the site of the infection. Sometimes, however, the system becomes overactive and attacks healthy tissue, as in the case of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, MS and lupus. An overactive immune system and alterations of gut microbes have also been linked to autism.
This discovery, experts say, could also open new avenues of research into Alzheimer’s. Perhaps, for example, the lymphatic system of the brain is failing to flush out the toxic plaques and tangles that are the molecular hallmarks of the disease.
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