History has proved to make some incredible discoveries that have made their way into teachings that we, as a society, are taught to absorb as true statements and must believe, memorize, and analyze. The human anatomy is no exception.
We already know the brain is a complex organ, so it should come as no surprise to us that scientific research continues to reveal new information about it, and that old ideas we thought to be true must often be rejected.
The Human Genome Project is proof that we have failed to find the truth behind the complexities that are the human body. The project, whose effort was to sequence our entire genetic code, opened our eyes as it failed, showing us that our individuality, our health, and our sickness could not be defined in the 25,000-coding genes. It was an awakening that prompted us to dig deep into how our environment, lifestyle, and mind and body are not puppets to our genes. There is more. But what? “We fooled ourselves into thinking the genome was going to be a transparent blueprint, but it’s not,” Mel Greaves, cell biologist at the Institute of Cancer Research stated.
We also believed that chemicals could only harm us in large doses, yet toxicology reports continue to unravel this idea, as research shows how different doses — both big and small — can greatly wreak havoc on our health. And germs? We’ve been told that exposure to them results in infections, yet this theory has been disproven thanks to growing evidence on the role of the microbiome.
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As for basic anatomy, that too we don’t necessarily have down: Enter the brain’s lymphatic system. In the report “Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels,” Antoine Loveau and a team of researchers explain that the brain does, in fact, have a lymphatic system: “Although it is now accepted that the central nervous system undergoes constant immune surveillance that takes place within the meningeal compartment, the mechanisms governing the entrance and exit of immune cells from the central nervous system remain poorly understood.”
The report essentially points out that, contrary to our viewpoint that the brain is “privileged,” it’s simply not based on the reality that the brain is connected to the immune system:
In searching for T-cell gateways into and out of the meninges, we discovered functional lymphatic vessels lining the dural sinuses. These structures express all of the molecular hallmarks of lymphatic endothelial cells, are able to carry both fluid and immune cells from the cerebrospinal fluid, and are connected to the deep cervical lymph nodes. The unique location of these vessels may have impeded their discovery to date, thereby contributing to the long-held concept of the absence of lymphatic vasculature in the central nervous system.
These findings serve as a step in the necessary reassessment of what we believe to be true about the basic anatomy of neuroimmunology. And furthermore, it should allow us to break down our walls of how we perceive the cause of both neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases, and how they are linked to the dysfunction of the immune system.
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