“Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” Matthew 9:29
Happy Hump Day, friends. Yes…the title of this piece is a quote I heard a lot growing up. 🙂 The phrase fits the topic today… However, I need to dispense with the small talk today and jump right in. Busy schedule, you know.
I had two people shoot me a link…THIS LINK…yesterday. Thank you both very much for sending it and in advance for any research you find. Keep-em comin’. I want to learn more and hopefully share what I learn with you in a way we both can understand. Here is the link to the medical journal entry about this research: LINK. First, before we dig in a little, I need to remind you of one obvious thing and one less obvious. The obvious: I ain’t no scientist, nor the son of one. 😉 I am an IT professional and historian/archaeologist/disaster cleaner-upper (and -maker), and husband and dad, not completely in that order. 😉 Second: You MUST be careful when reading any article online that begins with or includes “new study” or “breakthrough” or “think of (problem X) in brand new ways” and the like… Just be careful, and examine the sources. Be skeptical, perhaps. Some would prey on people in desperate situations to generate website visits, donations, and the like. I know, I know…you are shocked. But it is true. Watch this video too.
Disclaimers aside, this is a very interesting breakthrough indeed. It sort of parallelled a presentation I was fortunate enough to attend the other night at the Howard Johnson, over a free steak. Wait…no…that is a scam trying to get me to buy over-priced vitamins and CBD from their physician’s office. What I ACTUALLY watched yesterday was a similar discussion about the blood-brain barrier that was held at Washington University’s ADRC. The discussion there was amazing…I mean uh-may-zing(!) findings by a group of folks including Dr. Jonathan Kipnis. Dr. Kipnis’ specialty is Neuroimmunology. The study of immune and nervous systems (brain), if my Latin is correct. Here is a list of his published works: LINK. Watch this video to see him explain some of his specialties. LINK Kipnis is a pioneer in understanding the ways the brain clears out the junk that likely causes dementia if it isn’t cleared correctly. He and his team discovered in 2015 that the brain had a complex system of (meningeal) vessels to tie the brain to the immune system. Previously we thought that the brain had no connection to the immune system at all….that only blood and nerve impulses went in and out. (Perhaps it was in a sealed bubble/chamber?) This really didn’t make sense since every cell OTHER than the brain had connections to the immune system through this lymphatic system, why not arguably the most important to survival…but we didn’t see it yet?? Using Kipnis’ analogy, the blood vessels are like the water pipes into a house while the lymphatic vessels are the sewer pipes. What would happen without both?
We have discussed a few times here that the brain has to essentially/metaphorically be washed to keep fresh and safe from harm. It also has to have a system to fight inflammation, which is another function of this lymphatic (immune/cleaning) system. That is done, for the most part, it seems, in our sleep…hence the need for more sleep and the harm if we get too little. But this discovery has started explaining potential ways the brain tries to heal itself through its immune system. His presentation discussed very small columns in the skull that led to the dura (part of the thick covering of the brain and spinal cord.) He discussed how complex the topic is and how hard for us to see everything we need to see. (Note: It also highlighted the need for more cadaver brains to be donated to neurology research units…people don’t frequently volunteer to have their brain opened up this side of being room temperature).
Kipnis’ presentation, and the video referenced above (and here…you gotta watch it. 😉 ) kind of comes to a head with the question at the 16 minute mark: What if this lymphatic system gets gummed up? What if someone flushes a squirt gun down the toilet (long story for another day…) and there can’t be a free flow of waste to remove the Beta Amyloid plaques, Tau tangles and/or other unsavory things from the area? And how do we plunge the area out? And, what if we plunge out healthy veins…might it allow for even more blood flow and waste clearance such that we improve in cognition? Kipnis and others have shown that young mice have more efficient lymphatic systems than aged mice, so when a solution was added to the aged mouse, it both improved their clearing out of waste through this lymphatic system and their cognitive functioning. That is simply amazing…and has to factor into a cure someday. It can’t be a coincidence… If aging mice and primates as other studies imply have issues clearing their brain, and clearing the brain can be enhanced, there is hope. Remember too that while dementia is NOT inevitable, even a little bit, the most present risk factor is age…the older you get, the more likely you will develop it. Sure seems like a strong reason to clean out the pipes to me however we can. Very interesting stuff that I hope to read more about as we get closer and closer to a world with no Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
I may have mentioned this here or elsewhere…why not just blow out the pipes with a fire hydrant? I mean, REALLY clear them out. Wouldn’t that potentially make you even sharper/make things work better? Turns out, in the world of semi-unforeseen consequences, getting too much through this system actually causes Multiple Sclerosis. These two diseases use the lymphatic system differently, so the hope is finding substances that enhance function without having the pendulum swing and causing the other disease…There are still sooo much positive here.
Bonus thought: A bit of a nostalgic thought, it is interesting that we used to consider dementia as “hardening of the arteries”…and focused on flow in and out of the brain, mostly in the carotid arteries…and, if this causal aspect is what it is…they didn’t miss the concept by much considering how few tools they had to work with. Scientists even 30 years ago would have their collective heads explode if they saw the tools we have available now, even if only the PET scan and the MRI.
Another tangent- The history of our knowledge of the lymphatic system is fascinating. It has gone into and out of style to study this, but it is sure to go in style again with the exploration and rediscovery of its work within the brain, especially given the number of people that it could be involved in curing…tens of millions between Dementias, Parkinson’s and others…in the US alone. Here are some links: LINK LINK LINK but there are many interesting looks about lost then found science. Seems the scientists of old were smarterererer than we give them credit for sometimes. Not always…but sometimes. One thing I do know…it will continue to take many Dr. Kipnises of the world to solve this puzzle…and I am glad they are working on it.
Update- Visited mom yesterday outside (they had a Covid case, so we are stuck outside again for a couple of weeks.) She slept for the most part. I didn’t hear any chest noise which is promising. As you know, mom has struggled with aspirating food so every clear day is good. She largely slept but rallied around at the end of our alotted 20 minutes. Regardless, it is always awesome to see her.
More pix from our Walk to End Alzheimer’s Saturday 🙂