Rewrite the textbooks – lymphatic vessels have been found in the meninges of the brain

A study published in Nature on June 1 reveals a stunning discovery that might be the missing link between the brain and the immune system.  It’s also highly relevant to the work of osteopaths.

While searching for immune cells, researchers in Virginia noticed vessels within the meninges of mice. Further investigation showed that they were functional lymphatic vessels that can carry fluid and immune cells from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).  They line the dural sinuses and empty into deep cervical lymph nodes.  It is believed that these will also be shown to exist in humans and research is already underway.

Previously textbooks have shown the lymphatic vessels stopping at the base of the skull.  Kipnis (one of the neuroscientists who carried out the study) believes that the vessels were previously overlooked as the meninges were simply regarded as “shrink-wrapping” for the brain and not as an important structure in their own right.  For osteopaths, this study could be seen as a vindication of our emphasis on the meninges as an important structure with major implications for health.  Osteopaths, particularly in the cranial field, have long regarded assessment and treatment of meninges as fundamental to their work. This could be quite significant for the future of cranial osteopathy.  For example, in some neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimers and diabetes, protein chunks accumulate in the brain.  Kipnis believes that they might be accumulating because of poor elimination through these lymphatic vessels.

In the ideal world it would go like this:-

First step:  Find out whether there really is a link between poor lymphatic elimination from the brain and development of neurodegenerative conditions, or even migraine or tension headache.

Next step:  Research whether cranial osteopathy can in fact be shown to improve lymphatic drainage from the brain

Step after that:  Presuming that said research yields positive results, ensure that all practising cranial osteopaths are sufficiently skilled to accomplish lymphatic drainage

Final step:  Get many more people treated and reduce the numbers suffering these unpleasant conditions

For a more measured and detailed analysis, check out what NCOR have to say in their June monthly bulletin,  they point out that the vessels were found in only two of the nine human samples but area still quite excited.

Read the original paper Structural and Functional Features of Central Nervous System Lymphatic Vessels Nature June 2015

It is available to osteopaths freely via the o zone here.


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