Lymphatic vessels, the “roads” that work to clear waste material from the brain, can also carry messages that direct immune system attacks against myelin, promoting the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS), new study shows.
While the identity of these messages remains unknown, the findings suggest that blocking these signals could help to ease or even prevent MS progression.
“Our data suggests that there is a signal coming from the brain to the lymph nodes that tells immune cells to get back into the brain, causing the [multiple sclerosis] pathology,” Antoine Louveau, PhD, the study’s lead author with the University of Virginia (UVA), Department of Neuroscience and its Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG), said in a press release.
“This is an important proof of principle that exploring the role of these vessels in different neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis, is worth it,” Louveau added.
The study, “CNS lymphatic drainage and neuroinflammation are regulated by meningeal lymphatic vasculature,” was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Previously, scientists thought the brain lacked a lymphatic draining system, but experimental data from the research team at UVA and follow-up work by colleagues has identified lymphatic vessels surrounding the brain.
This led the researchers to ask whether autoreactive T-cells, which are involved in MS development, could gain access to the brain via lymphatic vessels located at the meninges. Meninges (derived from the Greek word for membrane) are three membranes that enclose the central nervous system (meaning the brain and spinal cord).
The UVA researchers injected a fluorescent tracer into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of mice. Within one hour, they were able to detect the tracer in meningeal lymphatic vessels, showing that the molecules can enter draining lymph nodes of the brain. The same was observed when they injected antibodies into the CSF.
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