Skull Channels Act Like a Warrior to Guard Brain Health
Investigators led by a team at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) who previously discovered that tiny channels in the skull have now found that cerebrospinal fluid (also known as “brain water”) can exit the brain into the skull’s bone marrow through these channels.
The discovery, which is published in Nature Neuroscience, is important because immune cells produced in the spongy tissue of the skull’s bone marrow can screen the cerebrospinal fluid for signs of infection and other threats to the brain.
Researchers have also found that immune cells responding to brain infection and injury come from bone marrow in the skull, and they pass through hundreds of tiny, previously unknown channels connecting the skull’s bone marrow to the outer layers of membranes that cover the brain (called meninges).
Before then, it was thought that bone marrow throughout the body reacts to an injury or infection at any location, but the discovery indicated that skull bone marrow has a special role due to its proximity to the brain and its connection to the meninges through channels.
An ‘Unexpected’ Discovery
In this latest work, researchers demonstrated that Cells in the skull’s bone marrow are capable of surveilling the cerebrospinal fluid that exits the brain through the skull channels discovered earlier.
This likely has huge implications for conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease because these diseases have an inflammatory component.
In addition to this, the bacteria that cause meningitis (inflammation in the meninges) also travel through the channels and enter the skull’s bone marrow.
This causes cells in the bone marrow to produce more immune cells to combat the invasion. A better understanding of these processes may lead to new strategies to treat meningitis.
This new finding will also help study situations when the immune response is harmful, such as when skull bone marrow-derived immune cells damage the brain and surrounding nerves.
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