It is Brain Science

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Maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect UVA’s discovery. Credit: University of Virginia Health System

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose, in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

The news in brain science is out of the University of Virginia; it is a game-changing discovery that links the Brain and the Immune System through the lymphatic system, through “vessels previously thought not to exist.” It is such a stunning advance (see image above) it could affect how we approach neurological diseases from Alzheimer’s to autism.

How did we think the brain’s lymphatic system was kind of like Taylor Swift’s Blank Space?

I mean, even to me, a knuckle dragger, the diagram looks hugely and suspiciously empty, so ready to be colored in with colored pencils, which was my favorite thing to do in biology class and the only thing I was good at when I wasn’t staring out the window reciting lines from A Room With A View. Nature abhors a vacuum. (Thankfully there is a Biology Coloring Book.)

The award for the Most Spectacular Sci-Fi Sentence In Journalism This Week goes to, “The UVA researchers determined the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist.” [Italics mine.] What’s next? Dragon glass?

Holy $%#.

“That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising…”  Surprising? Wow, is that an Episcopalian cake-or-death church-supper-level understatement.

WTF, brain scientists? I thought you were brain scientists. Wait. Sorry. Scientists just like you geniuses also used to think the Sun revolved around the Earth. That’s what science is. It morphs. It’s like an amoeba.  One decade you’re supposed to avoid steak and bone up on Snackwells, the next decade, the science shifts, and our understanding of blood sugar shifts, and you’re an idiot for eating so many Snackwells.

In my jaw-dropping shock of such an overlooked and “escaped detection” of a huge piece of the puzzle of ourselves that may hold new treatments for those suffering from chronic neurological illnesses (solidarity, peeps, it means it is all in our heads, literally, through these vessels thought not to exist), I have to say, “Well played, hidden ninja brain vessels,” and, “Well done, researchers.” It’s a cat and mouse game.

Winter is coming.



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