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Science Breakthroughs of 2015: The Lymphatic Brain

December 22, 2015

Science Breakthroughs of 2015: An unexpected finding in the brain.


Vessels discovered in tissue samples revealed, to biologists' surprise, that the body's immune plumbing penetrates the brain

Vessels discovered in tissue samples revealed, to biologists’ surprise, that the body’s immune plumbing penetrates the brain. (Jonathon Kipnis and Antoine Louveau/University of Virginia)

Jonathon Kipnis and Antoine Louveau/University of Virginia


The brain’s immunity. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update. This week and next, we’ll be counting down to the 2015 Science Breakthrough of the Year, according to Science magazine’s editors. Today, lymphatic vessels—part of the immune system—unexpectedly found in the brain. Anatomists used to believe lymph vessels didn’t penetrate the brain; the brain had a separate system of defense. But Science deputy news editor Robert Koontz says this year scientists found pockets of immune cells within the brain’s outer covering.

ROBERT COONTZ (Science magazine):

The implication is that the lymph vessels do not stop at the neck, they penetrate all the way into the brain and the central nervous system. This is a real basic discovery about human physiology and those things don’t come along all that often nowadays.


The finding could lead to better understanding of neuroinflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and meningitis. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.