Brain Structure Acting as Protective Barrier for Infection
is a previously unknown component of brain anatomy that acts as both a protective barrier and platform from which immune cells monitor the brain for infection and inflammation.
The discovery comes from the labs of Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester and the University of Copenhagen. This has transformed our understanding of the fundamental mechanics of the human brain and made significant findings in the field of neuroscience.
Scientists Discover Whole New Layer of Brain Tissue that May Help Ward Off Infections
The discovery of a new anatomic structure that segregates and helps control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in and around the brain now not only transports but also removes waste from the brain, and supports its immune defenses.
The study focuses on the membranes that encase the brain, which create a barrier from the rest of the body and keeps it bathed in CSF.
The traditional understanding of what is collectively called the meningeal layer, is a barrier comprised of individual layers known as the dura, arachnoid, and pia mater.
The new layer discovered further divides the space below the arachnoid layer, the subarachnoid space, into two compartments, separated by the newly described layer, which the researchers name the SLYM, an abbreviation of Subarachnoidal Lymphatic-like Membrane.
The SLYM is a type of membrane called mesothelium, which is known to line other organs in the body, including the lungs and heart. Mesothelia typically surround and protect organs and harbor immune cells.
The new membrane is very thin and delicate and consists of only one or a few cells in thickness. Yet the SLYM is a tight barrier, and allows only very small molecules to transit; it seems to separate ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ CSF.
This last observation hints at the likely role played by SLYM in the glymphatic system, which requires a controlled flow and exchange of CSF, allowing the influx of fresh CSF while flushing the toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases from the central nervous system.
The Discovery of the SLYM opens the door for further study of its role in brain disease. When the membrane was ruptured during traumatic brain injury, the resulting disruption in the flow of CSF impaired the glymphatic system and allowed non-central nervous system immune cells to enter the brain.
They also suggest that the delivery of drugs and gene therapeutics to the brain may be impacted by SLYM function, which will need to be considered as new generations of biological therapies are being developed.
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