Have you ever made plans with friends or family and then, when the time came, you just didn’t feel like going?
Perhaps you didn’t feel well. Or you might have felt just fine, physically, but simply lacked the desire to be social.
Either way, your immune system might have been to blame.
This is just one of the stunning discoveries that University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers have made recently.
They found a direct connection between the brain and the immune system, made by vessels that were previously thought not to exist. On top of that, they are finding that our immune response can actually influence some of our behavioral traits!
These UVA researchers suggest these discoveries could overturn years of textbook teaching.
Think about that for a moment. With the discovery of the missing link between the brain and the immune system, modern researchers have discovered an entirely new part of the body.
On top of that, they believe it could revolutionize the study and treatment of neurological diseases. Diseases like autism, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
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In an interview in the journal Nature, Kevin S. Lee wrote: "They’ll have to change the textbooks. There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system.”
Lee is the chair of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience. Presciently, he noted that this brain-immune system connection could “fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”
His colleague, Jonathan Kipnis, Ph.D., also had some interesting observations. Kipnis is a professor in that department, and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia.
His take …
“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.
“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,” said Kipnis.
The unexpected discovery of these lymphatic vessels that connect the brain to the immune system is noteworthy.
That’s because it could result in better treatments — and potential cures — for various neurological diseases.
For example, Alzheimer’s disease.
“In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain,” Kipnis said. “We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.”
He noted that the vessels look different with age. So, the role they play in aging is another avenue to explore.
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Other neurological diseases could see breakthroughs based on this discovery. Lee and Kipnis also suggest research could advance on autism and MS, among other diseases.
This is one of the biggest medical breakthroughs in recent memory. It adds to other recent discoveries that show how the body systems are all interconnected.
So it only makes sense that, since then, they have built upon their textbook-altering research about how the brain and immune system interact.
The lead author of a subsequent study, Anthony J. Filiano, says organisms need to be social "for the survival of the species." The postdoctoral fellow notes that, "But (in being social), you have a higher chance of spreading pathogens."
A pathogen can cause illness or disease. And the immune system, in response to bacteria, produces an immune molecule known as interferon gamma.
Blocking this molecule in mice made them less social, the researchers found, because it ramped up activity in certain regions of their brains. But when they restored the brain connectivity, the mice’s regular behavior … and their social function … returned.
There is no connection between avoiding social contact and staying healthy. In fact, interferon gamma "has been used as a more-efficient way to both boost social behavior while boosting an anti-pathogen response," per Filiano.
This trend in medical research is proving that the body is a sort of biological ecosystem — one where all systems work together.
This can allow doctors and scientists to looks at new sources of a disease — places where they previously might not have looked.
It appears science just got closer to discovering new cures for diseases we currently believe to be incurable. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to witness these kinds of advancements … and to potentially be able to benefit from them in our lifetimes.
Happy and healthy investing,
The Uncommon Wisdom Daily Team