The Gander

Pat Kelly | 24 Jan 2019 | 0 Comment(s)

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The Medical Independent blog takes a look at the more unconventional niches in science and research

Tunnel vision

For the first time, microscopic tunnels connecting bone marrow in the skull to the lining of the skull have been identified and researchers hope this may shed light on how the brain reacts to disease and injury.

The team at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, US, were examining where immune cells originate from after a stroke when they discovered the tunnels. In the course of their research using mouse models, they found that neutrophils are more likely to originate from the skull following a stroke, while a similar amount originate from the tibia and skull following a heart attack.

During the course of their work, they discovered the tunnels leading to the damaged tissue and concluded that these mechanisms are not limited to mice alone.

Molecular Biologist at Harvard Medical School Dr Matthias Nahrendorf commented in a statement: “While we’ve still got a lot to learn about these channels, I think their very special role as conduits for inflammatory cross-talk between the marrow and the central nervous system is quite different from any other vasculature.

“In addition to these channels carrying immune cells from the skull marrow to the brain, we think inflammatory substances that derive from the brain may alert the skull marrow to an injury faster than marrow from the rest of the body.”

He added that because of the link between brain disease and inflammation, “... it would be great to learn how the channels contribute to those diseases and whether modulating their contributions could change outcomes.

“Another idea is that the channels could serve as a route of drug delivery, allowing transport to the meninges of drugs delivered into the skull marrow.”

Dr Francesca Bosetti, Programme Director at the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, added: “We always thought that immune cells from our arms and legs travelled via blood to damaged brain tissue. These findings suggest that immune cells may instead be taking a shortcut to rapidly arrive at areas of inflammation.

“Inflammation plays a critical role in many brain disorders and it is possible that the newly-described channels may be important in a number of conditions. The discovery of these channels opens up many new avenues of research.”

The research was reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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