A new study published in the journal Nature (Louveau et al.,2015) appears to present new evidence of the connectedness of the body to the brain. Until now it was thought that the lymphatic system, a vital component in our immune system, operated throughout the body but that it did not pass into the tissues of the brain. However, the discovery announced in this report is that the team have discovered vessels located in the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord (the meninges) that connects the brain to the immune system.
Whereas previously the brain had been thought of as independent of the immune system, these findings demonstrate that the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system.
The finding will hopefully have major implications for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it. For example, the large protein chunks that build up in the brains of Alzheimer sufferers may be as a result of the failure of these vessels to remove them efficiently. If that is the case entirely new medicines may emerge to treat Alzheimer’s as a result of these findings.
As with all research, the timescale for it to translate into effective human treatments is relatively slow. But the discovery of these previously unknown structures is nevertheless a major advance in our understanding of the brain and neurodegenerative illnesses.