Missing link found between brain, immune system; major disease implications

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.”

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Yes; read it yesterday. While there is a lot of significant new dis-cover-y here, the up and down links via the vagus nerve from and to the enteric nervous system in the gut had been the subject of investigation for some time along with the whole matter of the immune system’s role in psychiatric disorders.

Some hip psychiatrists have been prescribing non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to sz, bipolar and other highly stressed pts for as long as a decade now. The results are mixed, but some are helped. Sonya Lupien, Bruce McEwen and Peter Levine have been noises about this for at least a decade.

Not pooh-poohing this new research at all, however. Just want to advise that it’s not the “stunning discovery” the report in the mass media makes of it, but rather the next new piece of evidence for a notion some have been barking up trees about for several years.

I started brewing my own sauerkraut at home – loaded with probiotics and cheaper than buying from the store. I find they help level me out and I seem to get fewer colds.