AUG 20, 2018 6:31 AM PDT

Yes, Your Brain Can Clean Itself

The lymphatic system is the body's way of keeping cells moving along. It's an integral part of the circulatory system as well as the immune system. Lymph is a clear fluid that carries immune cells to lymph nodes. It’s also a crucial part of clearing cellular waste from the body. In 2015, neuroscientist Jonathan Kipnis at UVA and his team discovered that the brain does indeed have a lymphatic system. For hundreds of years, it was believed that there was no way to "drain the brain" of cellular waste products. The brain sits in about half a cup of lymphatic fluid and produces about 24 ml of fluid every hour. Clearly, that all has to go somewhere. The brain’s lymphatic system can be compared to the pipes and sewers that take waste out of our homes and dispose of it, but the brain does so in a much less messy way.

Waste from the brain seeps out of the blood vessels into lymphatic vessels that are located in the dura of the brain. Recent research shows that this drainage system could be a factor in neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The lymphatic system also plays a role in moving immune cells around to where they need to be. Lymphatic vessels do not have a protective layer that keeps out toxins like the blood-brain barrier does for cerebral blood vessels. This means the immune system can be disrupted, but now that researchers know it exists, more studies can be done to find how it impacts brain health.

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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