From: Business Insider, June 3, 2015 by Lauren F. Friedman
This stunning discovery about the brain will have scientists rewriting textbook
Antoine Louveau was looking through his microscope at thin membranes that protect the brain when he saw something that absolutely shouldn’t be there: a lymphatic vessel.
The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system but, instead of blood, it carries lymph — a clear liquid that ferries immune cells and rids the body of toxins and waste. As a 2009 research review notes, it is “an undisputed anatomical fact” that the brain is the only major organ that lacks a direct connection to the lymphatic system.
Now that claim is disputed. If confirmed, the discovery may have huge implications for studying brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis (MS).
“All the textbooks said there were not supposed to be any lymphatic vessels in that area,” said Louveau, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Virginia. But after he and UVA neuroscientist Jonathan Kipnis ran a battery of tests, they discovered Louveau had been right. “It was exactly what we thought it couldn’t be,” Louveau said.
The elusive lymphatic vessel hid in plain sight, throughout decades of research, because it was very small and tucked behind a major blood vessel.
Scientists used to think that the brain was totally cut off from the immune system and that if immune cells were found there, “something was going wrong,” Kipnis told The Scientist.
Take multiple sclerosis, for example, a mysterious ailment that affects about 2.3 million people worldwide. Many researchers believe whatever triggers its attacks on nerves in the spine, brain, and eye starts in the body and somehow moves to the brain, Bilbo said. “This [discovery] suggests MS might actually start in the brain,” she said. “It reverses our understanding of that pathology.”
Then there are neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. The new vessel might be a good place to look for something going wrong. “In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain,” Kipnis said in a statement. “We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels”
That’s just speculation — an intriguing possibility Kipnis, Louveau, and most likely others will explore in future studies. The brain’s newfound lymphatic drainage system, and all the possible ways it can malfunction, may well be critical in these diseases. But there’s also a chance at this early stage of research that it’s a red herring: an interesting anatomical finding that’s exciting for scientists but leads to little for patients.
For now, the researchers are hard at work on two major follow-up questions to try to figure out how the research might be relevant and useful. First, does this system definitely exist in humans? And second, what is the potential role of these vessels in Alzheimer’s, MS, and meningitis?
Other scientists will scramble to replicate the results and build on the finding. If the discovery holds up, it could open a number of exciting new avenues for research.
Bilbo said, for example, there has hardly been any research on the brain’s “portal areas” — those foggy zones where the brain connects to yet is shielded from the rest of the body. “[These are] really underexplored parts of neuroscience and neurology … [These] pathways are really misunderstood. Not even misunderstood, but ignored.”
The idea that an entire part of the lymphatic system was hiding in plain sight should ensure that these potentially crucial areas are ignored no longer. With any luck, this might help us solve more mysteries behind the brain — and fight some of its greatest foes.
I subscribe to the newsletter of http://www.lifespa.com and the author Dr. John Douillard shared an interesting article on the link between lymph and the brain “Science Confirms Ayurvedic Knowledge of Brain-Lymph Connection”.
He writes in an article dated June 20, 2015 and I quote :
The Lymph-Brain Connection
While Western medicine seems to be convinced that every area of the human body has been thoroughly mapped, a surprising new discovery of lymph vessels that were never thought to exist has been made. Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine discovered that the central nervous system is drained by meningeal lymphatic vessels, indicating that there is a strong link between the immune system, which travels via the lymph, and the brain and central nervous system. (1) Ayurveda has been emphasizing the importance of the lymph system throughout the body for thousands of years, and modern science now confirms this ancient wisdom!
Practically, this implies that what Ayurveda has been saying for years – that lymphatic congestion can cause or predispose someone to an immune-related or nervous system disorder – is true. While the understanding that an immune attack could weaken a patient with a neurological condition like multiple sclerosis has been observed by Western medicine, the fact that these “hidden lymph vessels” are the mechanism connecting the immune system and the brain and nervous system is a new phenomenon. (1)
These findings indicate that as we age, these meningeal lymph vessels become less efficient and thus allow toxic proteins and plaques to build up in the brain and nervous system. The brain and nervous system are linked to memory and cognitive functions, along with a laundry list of potentially associated neurological issues that may also be lymph-related.
These very small lymph vessels were hidden alongside blood vessels, and were basically invisible until now. This research has opened up the idea that there are possibly many other locations of lymph vessels that are responsible for the degeneration and weak immune processes of the body. (1) According to Ayurveda, it is the innumerable and subtle lymph drains that must be maintained first.
For example, if a drain becomes clogged in your house, you do not fix the faucets first, you go straight to the drain. Similarly, if someone has high cholesterol, joint or circulation concerns, or skin issues (to name a few), it is better to evaluate and treat the drains or the lymph vessels of the body first, as the concern may only be a symptom of lymphatic congestion.
Ayurveda for Lymph Drainage
To address the lymph, strategies such as yoga and nose breathing exercise, along with staying hydrated and eating seasonally, all support healthy lymph flow. Herbs derived from the pith or white part of oranges, pomegranates and grapefruits have long been used as lymph-moving agents and have only recently been found to have constituents like diosmin that decongest the lymph.
While this is pointing Western medicine in a new direction towards a deeper understanding of how our stress can shut down the lymph and compromise immunity, (9-12) perhaps much can be gleaned from the Ayurvedic perspective that has long suggested that the lymph is the key to our health and longevity.
For more articles on the Lymphatic system from the Ayurvedic perspective, click on this link (or go to http://www.lifespa.com)